Friday, January 22, 2010

Just love homeschooling

Here's what we did today. Can you think of a better way to spend a chilly Friday? (The only real bummer: Nell was home sick with strep throat and couldn't join us.)

Today is Simon's 7th birthday. Here he is with his "best friend" sliding on the ice. R was very excited for Simon to see her kitty hat. Simon was, of course, oblivious.

You see why Simon likes her so much!

Simon's best friend's big sister. (If I could figure out how to rotate these pictures to upright, I would certainly do it!)

Starting a little fire from a flint.

And later..........a bigger fire. Same flint.

Simon and Ben on the ice at the Cedar Swamp. We found a bunch of owl pellets under some of the cedar trees. Inside the pellets: skeletons! The most interesting skeleton was a red-toothed shrew.

Onward, Bennie, onward!

And then we drove home and ate birthday cake. Nell got out of bed for the first time in two days to join us. A lovely, lovely day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Perfect Winter Day

I cannot get enough of this winter. We have had snow on the ground for three solid weeks (unusual here in Southeastern Connecticut) and it's just so beautiful. I can barely contain myself. I want to bottle some of this dim and shiny winter gloriousness to open some long, too bright day in July when I've had quite enough of summer and long again for winter.

Sunday was the perfect winter day. I met Susan at 5 in the morning at Bluff Point for a four-hour run on the trails. I can run forever on the snow with no pain whatsoever in my ankle or foot. Weird. I see that Paige noticed the same thing on her snowy run last Saturday. We'll have to come up with a new therapy fad: Snow Running for Health and Longevity!!!

Susan and I had a lovely run. The first half was dark and a little spooky in the woods. There were animal tracks all over the place. Some of the tracks were obvious: squirrell, bird, rabbit. But some were unusually big and forbidding. Panther? Couger? Bobcat? What? We'll have to bring our footprint tracking guide next time.

The sun came up a little after 6:30 and, oh, what a breathtaking sight it was. The first light on the snow is holy. It's quiet and substantial and gorgeous and rare. I just love it. The sky got pink over the water and lit up the dead grasses lining the trail by the cliffs. I didn't bring my camera (which would not have done justice to the scene anyway) so you're just going to have to take my word for it. It was a fine, fine thing to see.

After it got light Susan and I turned off the main fire road and hit the fun trails. We ran and ran and ran. We kept a slow steady pace, talked our heads off, and the time flew by.

By the end of four hours, we were toast. Running in the cold takes the stuffing out of you. The body fighting to keep warm uses tons of energy. It's almost a different sport from summer running. I love and adore running in the winter. Why can't we have winter all year long? Why, why, WHY??

I thought I would spend the rest of the day curled up by the woodstove with my new book (Desert Queen -- a fascinating biography of Gertrude Bell, who was instrumental in establishing the country of Iraq at the beginning of the 20th Century).

Actually, I didn't really think that. More of a pipe dream. People with three little kids in the house do not generally do much curling up. Because, Moooo-ooom, that's so boring!

We took the kids skating. All afternoon. It had snowed on Friday, so we weren't sure if there would be ice to skate on or not. When we got to the pond we found that we could kind of skate over the top of the snow. It was like adventure skating. Black diamond skating. The ice under the snow was uneven, so you never knew when you'd hit a bump or a divot or a dead spot. Blam! We all bit it at one time or another.

We skated until just before dusk. Again, the light took my breath away. The sky turned indigo with streaks of pink shooting through. Stop, time! Keep this moment now. It is all so beautiful.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

It has been a wonderful two week break for all of us. I am fully grateful to have kids who are interested in lots of stuff, don't get me wrong, but I'd be lying if I told you I didn't need a bit of a rest from all of the activities. So we are just finishing up a 2-week period mostly free from piano and violin and horseback and swimteam and gymnastics and yoga and any sort of formal homeschool stuff (not that we do much of that anyway -- we are definitely on the unstructured end of things here, and that's how we like it).

My stomach is feeling much better. As soon as Christmas, with all of its attendant worries and mad dashes was over, I was able to settle into a good string of relaxing days and things immediately started improving. Which makes me wonder how much of a head case I really am. How much of this stomach business am I manufacturing from within? I wonder....

I started on a homeopathic remedy right after Christmas, and this also seems to be helping. Natrum carbonicum it's called. I put three teeny tiny sugar pills under my tongue each morning and they set me to rights for the rest of the day. All good. Who am I to question why?

Dare I say the teeny tiny pills are helping my foot as well? Because my foot is much better. I ran three hours this morning in the freezing 12-degree wind and snow and the foot held up pretty well. I'm not going to push it much beyond three hours for now. I don't want to backtrack here. But nor do I want to think about it any more. I just want to get on with my life, run when I can and be happy with whatever I can do.

I had two good runs with Susan over the past week or so. Actually, the first run wasn't that great. We ran the day after Christmas on the roads and I had to stop after an hour because my foot was hurting. But we tried again a week later on the snowy trails at Bluff Point and I was able to go two hours with no problems (of course, this was after I started the magic pills!).

Brian was home for a week and a half for the school holidays so I was able to run and swim quite a bit. I found a great swim website with daily workouts posted. So I swam a couple of real workouts and loved every minute. So much more interesting and varied than my usual lap routine. I'm going to print out a bunch more and use them over the winter. I swam 3100 yards in an hour and it felt like 10 minutes.

This morning's run was unexpected and lovely. I got up early to come down and write this blog. I got to perusing some of my blog-friends' blogs, and when I read Alene's account of her two-day, 12-hour New Year's running adventure, I could not sit here for another second. Despite the wicked wind howling outside and the snow and the cold, I layered up and went out. I ended up running for three hours in the lovely morning darkness and light. The sight of the sun coming up behind the trees making the snow glow on the ground, well, it just took my breath away. There is nothing lovelier than a sunrise over snow.

While I was running I tried to think about my running goals for the upcoming year. I am not much of a goal setter, so this does not come naturally to me. I want to get healthy. Specifically, my foot and stomach. I want to be okay with not running Umstead in March (every time I ramp up my training I get injured -- I need to let it go), and perhaps not running any 100's in 2010. I'd like to continue to run joyfully, to not take even a minute of it for granted. I'd like to run some 50s in the spring (Wapack and Pittsfield Peaks) and see how they go before signing up for anything else. I'd like to cultivate patience. And I want to find the magic balance between this running obsession and the rest of my life. I want to write more, play music more, read more. And if this means running less, then I want to figure out how to make that okay.

Man, I love to run. I'll never lose that. I think 50-miles is going to be my signature distance for 2010. There will be years when I will have more time to train. This is simply not going to be one of those years. I have little kids. We homeschool. These are wonderful, critical, joyful years: the sweet spot between babies in the house and teenagers out of the house. I want to be fully present for my kids' childhoods. I want to live close to the bone. I want us to have adventures. Because this is what my life right now is all about. And that is good.

And speaking of adventures, the pond at Beebe Cove froze and we have been skating. Everyone can skate by themselves this year. Such a milestone! My feet and back are thrilled.....