Cookie Love.

Recently Julianna came home from early preschool singing this song:

5 little gingerbread men in a row
Not gonna eat one, No, No, No!
But they look so pretty (yummy?) from head to toe
Crunch! Munch! Uh oh!!

4 little...
3 little...
2 little...

1 little gingerbread man in a row
Not gonna eat him , No, No, No!
But he looks so pretty from head to toe
Crunch! Munch! OH WELL!

A few days later, I realized I was assigned to bring the snack for her class that week. I thought about it for a day or so, procrastinating until the very last minute. At 10pm the night before, I began perusing AllRecipes.com for kid friendly snack ideas. That's when I got the bright idea to make gingerbread cookies. You know, the kind of cookie that require dough to chill in the fridge for 4 hours before you cut and bake. I asked Matt if it would be crazy to run to the store that night to look for a gingerbread man cookie cutter and to buy some molasses. Then I headed out the door before he had a chance to answer.
Luckily, I found the supplies I needed. By midnight, the dough was chilling and I was in bed.

The following day I only had a few hours (nap time) to finish up – cut, bake, decorate. Julianna and her friends at school were so pleased that I think (5) little gingerbread men will be a tradition in our house every December.


Happy Mother's Day 2011

On my second Mother's Day, I woke up early and left the family in bed to run my first ever race. It felt awesome to do something for myself, but at the same time to set a healthy example for my daughter. As I was running, I thought about how Julianna is the best gift I've ever been given. She truly is the meaning in my life, and I hope that I can live that life with intention, earning the beautiful title, "mother".

Thank you Julianna, my little shadow, for allowing me the opportunity to teach you what I know about the challenges and beauty of life.

It's an honor.

Recently a friend of mine forwarded an essay to me which evidently has been moving around the "internet world" for a while now. It was the first time I had read it. A beautiful tribute to Motherhood, it's eloquently and wisely written, and I'd like to share it with you.

An essay by Anna Quindlen, worth reading again and again....
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past. 
Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. 
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. 
When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there some thing wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too. 

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, 'Remember-When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame.' The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pick up. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, 'What did you get wrong?'. (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking? 
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get onto the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. 
Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were. 


Running | My Story


Since I began running, this has been my flood of emotions. However, despite the roller coaster, in the last ten weeks, I've run four times per week without fail. According to what I've logged on Dailymile.com, I have covered 133 miles and have burned 112.23 doughnuts. Technically, I could say I've never eaten a doughnut in my life (of course, then I'd have to admit to the few extra glasses of red wine and Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups I've enjoyed recently)!

My journey thus far reminds me of a tip given by my parents when I was in middle school. "The people you associate yourself with quickly define who you are and who you will become." It's a lesson that is even more poignant to me now than it was then. I joined Stroller Strides last October merely hoping to get into better shape. Little did I know, I was surrounding myself with inspirational women who weren't afraid of a challenge. When the topic of joining Running Club (with a race in mind) arose, I distinctly remember one of them saying, "I'll do it, if you do it." To which I responded, "I'm really not excited about running, and there is no part of me that wants to run a half marathon." Dare say I was a bit negative? But the truth was, there has always been a small part of me that wished I was a runner. So I signed up with the 5k race as my goal. And before I knew it, the runner's high began to kick in. I was proud of myself. Proud to be there, rather than on my couch.

We started out easy, running 60 seconds, walking 90 seconds for 20 minutes. Honestly, even that was a challenge at the time. But I showed up, despite the few days there was snow and ice on the ground, and the other days when it was pouring rain.

The weather conditions actually proved to be invigorating; I was doing something I would have called crazy just a month prior.

I've never been much of a team sports player. I prefer to challenge myself when no one else is watching or comparing. But Running Club has provided the perfect opportunity to push myself while building commoraderie. I have two buddies who consistently run with me, both beginners. But we've worked through the dread, we've motivated through the breathlessness and we've built pride through our accomplishments.

Six weeks into the program, we were still doing a run/walk mix, and that Saturday we were scheduled to run 2.5 miles straight with no stops. Anxious about our upcoming challenge, we even "celebrated" our last "walk period", savoring it with pride and a fair bit of apprehension. I remember that last run/walk day more than the actual 2.5 mile run. We were still in disbelief that we could do it, even though we had been able to follow the training schedule thus far. Two and a half miles sounded RIDICULOUS. And now, only three weeks later, we have completed a 6 mile run!

Needless to say, I skipped the 5k race and signed up for the 10k (6.2 miles).

All of this progress has not come without complication. I'm struggling with a fair amount of knee pain and a few other aches here and there. It's disappointing to put in so much effort, to resist inertia, to show up and then have set backs. But that is part of life, right? I might not appreciate the ups without a few downs along the way. And in the process, I'm becoming more educated. I'm learning that to be an athlete (dare I call myself that) requires maintenance. And that may be a blessing in disguise, because maintenance involves self awareness, honesty, knowledge and attention. It's not just about driving the car, it's about valuing it.

(Had to include a couple cute pics of my running partner... discovering the awesomeness of having her own personal music player.)

This weekend, on Mother's Day, I'll awake around 5am, drink water, eat oatmeal, prep, and drive to Everett, WA to run my first race. It will mark the beginning of what I hope will be my running career. Certainly an accomplishment, but I already know it's well within reach. It even sounds, dare I say it, easy, because I'm already looking forward to the next commitment. On June 25, I'll be participating in the Seattle Rock N' Roll, a half marathon (13.1 miles). Insert that list of words I mentioned at the beginning of this post, because I'll be feeling them all over again over the next two months!

Stay tuned...
"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells "CAN'T", but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper "can". And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are."  
(A quote from the Facebook group, I <3 to run) 


Around Here | Spring 2011

Throughout the Winter months in Seattle, we get a lot of weather that looks (and feels) 
like this.

We have lived here going on four years now, and each Winter brings me a different set of emotions. Our first year felt almost unbearable, and a quick escape to Dallas didn't make it any easier, reminding me how good the sun feels on your face and skin. A lack of Vitamin D is almost like a lack of water! The second year, I was more prepared for what was ahead, so I spent time snuggling in blankets on the couch, enjoying hot coffee and tea and taking the opportunity to declutter and organize our closets. Hibernation is an important part of our overall well being; a time to rest, relax and regroup. However in the Pacific Northwest, it's a little hard to predict how many dormant months we will have. Some years Spring feels like a continuation of Winter with lots of rain and dreary cold weather all the way through late May (not only do our closets get an overhaul, but so does the garage!). Other years bring a glorious Spring, full of Cherry blossoms and daffodil blooms, vibrant, saturated colors soaked with dew, and I'm reminded that this is a season not to be overlooked. I take a deep breath and watch the world awaken.

It'll be interesting to see how Julianna views the seasons and weather as she grows older. Originally I thought she was going to be a home body as she was quite hesitant to even touch grass let alone walk in it. But lately, she's been begging to go outdoors. Every time our car turns into our neighborhood she immediately prepares for the opportunity to go outside, repeating, "Walk? Walk? Walk?" over and over as we drive up our street and pull into the garage. The requests/demands don't stop until I acknowledge her words with an "Okay" or "No, not this time; it's raining!"

Although I do like the outdoors, I've never been one to want to hang outside if the grass is wet and the air is chilly. That hasn't stopped Julianna. She's perfectly content stomping around the driveway in her boots, feeling the breeze in her curly locks and exclaiming, "OH! Bird!" ... "OH! Woof, Woof!" ... "OH! Car!" I guess it's a reminder that new experiences are beautiful and exciting. And although these things aren't new to me, I get to see them as such through her gleaming eyes and pointer finger.

Since Julianna has forced me out of my comfort zone (that snuggly blanket on the couch), I've welcomed early Spring outdoors. So I've been able to fully appreciate the texture and color around our yard.

My absolute favorite is this gorgeous bush in our neighbor's yard. I'm amazed by it every time I drive up our street, and I anticipate its blooms every year.

It's branches appear burly and harsh like Winter, 
but the color of its blooms is as fresh as Spring.

We live on a cul-de-sac towards the top of a hill, and there is a flat space at the very top where kids can ride bikes and play make believe. The other day, Julianna and I found the area covered in tiny flower petals. 

We danced, we skipped, we side stepped down the slop. And Jules' face couldn't have been more lit up with joy. Yes, we may have a few more grey skies ahead, but in between we will venture forth and soak up Spring!

"OH! A Bird!" :)


Dear Julianna: 18 months

What a fun month we've had as we've watched your personality develop over the past month. 

Your Daddy just finished the last class of his MBA and this was our first weekend together as a family without the thought going through the back of our minds that Daddy really should be studying! 

This morning (Sunday) we all slept in until about 8:15am when we heard you start to chatter in your crib. Lately you've been enjoying alone time in your crib with Daisy (your stuffed animal duck), your paci and blanket. We often hear you in there holding meetings and having conference calls with a few loud giggles and shrieks mixed in.

Daddy got you out of bed and as usual, you immediately barked orders for "noke" (milk). We quickly dressed, packed snacks and headed out to breakfast at Alexa's Cafe, in Bothell. We were trying the restaurant out for the first time, prompted by a Groupon we had purchased (these "group coupons" are the hot trend for 2011; purchasers get 50% off at popular venues, restaurants and events, and the deals are made possible by the quantity of customers buying the coupons). Breakfast was a huge success, and not just because we enjoyed the salmon egg scramble and walnut, banana pancakes we ordered. You were the reason that breakfast went down so smoothly. After returning home, Daddy and I reflected, trying to decide what had prompted such an especially enjoyable meal out with you. We decided it was because you were allowed your independence. While waiting to be seated, you wanted to sit on the bench that Mommy and Daddy were sitting on rather than in our laps. Then you proudly held the small circular from the newspaper Daddy was reading. As we ate breakfast, we gave you your own plate with small bites of omelet and potato along with the fork you had requested. You quickly gulped down pieces of your omelet when you realized each bite would be followed with a small piece of toast you had been begging for. You handed me a butter knife and requested that the toast be spread with "dip" ( jelly). In your mind you had complete control of your breakfast experience. Your milk was at arm's reach, you had a coloring sheet with crayons for coloring from the waitress, your cup of cheerios was lid free so you could dig deep to pick out the raisins. Mommy and Daddy weren't fussing with you, but were letting you have free reign of your own domain. And I must admit, allowing you to have free reign was not as stressful as one would imagine. You gently picked up your jellied toast so that very little got on your fingers, and carefully held your cheerio cup so that none spilled out. 

You are very precise, cautious and composed for an 18 month old, and your Virgo mother doesn't mind missing out on the normal toddler messes one bit. I do however, hope that these traits which are so similar to my own, don't keep you from being a self-confident, out-going child ready to face challenges and embrace life. Luckily you seem to express a need for independence (no-doubt a trait gleaned from your father), and I will do my best to not only avoid squelching it (with my desire to fix and correct), but to foster it. 

It's a hard balance, allowing you control of your surroundings while making sure that you understand there are limits. I want you to know that you have choices in life and not to be intimidated by making them.  But it is also important to realize that the world does not revolve around you (a theory to which your pediatrician assures me almost all two year olds subscribe). 

Recently, a friend of ours lent us a series of CDs called Parenting with Love and Logic. The number one principal that rang true to us was to allow you to make your own choices and let you live with the consequences (especially while you are at a young age and the consequences are really rather minimal). This will be easier for your Father than it is for me, as I have that motherly instinct to caution and protect, but it is a good reminder for me to let you be you. I want to celebrate you, as an individual. Julianna Rachelle George, you are a combination of both of your parents, but at the same time you are uniquely you. And we love you for exactly who you are.

At 18 months you:
• Love to watch "Sessy Seat" (Seasame Street), Elmo is your favorite character
• Are using more words than we can keep track of
• Can almost recite the alphabet in full!! (Missing the letters P and T,U,V)
• Drink about 24 ounces of milk a day and don't particularly like juice
• Think it's fun to brush your teeth, use makeup brushes like Mommy, look at yourself in the mirror and use soap when you rinse your hands

• Say and understand the word "cute" in reference to clothing
• Hate to have your diaper changed but still not agreeable to sitting on the potty seat
• Love bubble baths
• Like to turn on your sound machine and don't mind giving Mommy and Daddy a kiss if it means you can get in bed with Daisy and Paci
• Always request to walk when getting out of your car seat
• Dance with Mommy to the "Elmo Slide” (similar to a line dance: slide to the front, the back, lift a knee, the other knee, jump one time, now two times, etc.)
• Cry when Mommy leaves your sight (at friends’ homes or at Stroller Strides)
• Frequently request your favorite snack, raisins and almonds
• Use a spoon and fork well, when eating oatmeal and yogurt 90% of it ends up in your mouth

• Do well with routines
• Sleep 12 hours a night and take a 2-2.5 hour nap
• Have a recent interest in going in the front and back yards, requesting, “outside?”

• Don't like to climb and are very cautious at the indoor playground at the mall (would rather use the automatic hand sanitizer dispenser and put other kids' shoes away in the provided cubbies)
• Are observant and prefer to watch from the sidelines with your hands resting behind your back before joining in to play


Leavenworth Road Trip

Over President's Day Weekend, Matt had a day off work, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a one-day vacation from dishes, laundry, television and studying. We headed out on a day trip to Leavenworth. Ever since I found out about this Alpine Bavarian Village, I've wanted to check it out. A two-hour drive (from Kirkland, WA) through the mountains to escape daily life and enter a quaint village amidst the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine hills.

We planned ahead, knowing that our little angel would not make it through the day without a nap. We woke up in the morning, ate a good breakfast, got dressed, packed the car and then secured Julianna in her car seat with her snuggle blanket and Preston the puppy just in time for her mid-day nap. We held our breath and started driving in hopes that she would sleep soundly until we arrived at our destination.

We enjoyed a peaceful drive through the Wenatchee National Forest, escaping into a beautiful Winter wonderland.

Seat Warmer. Coffee. Water. Homemade Trail Mix. Diaper bag. Wallet. Check!
 Julianna slept most of the way, but (surprise!) woke just as we were opening the trail mix.

We pulled into the cute little German town and found it bustling with people, strollers and dogs all out enjoying the holiday weekend.

After strolling the streets and perusing a few shops, we stopped for a quick treat. Julianna anxiously signed more with every bite Matt gave her from a tiny taste tester spoon. Her Daddy may have met his ice cream eating match!

Leavenworth was an easy escape, a fun day trip and I imagine we'll be going back when Julianna is a little older. It has that magical quality of a lighted Christmas town, bustling with merry shoppers.

Matt has always said that I am a cheap date (one alcoholic beverage and I'm feeling slightly toasty and completely happy), and I suppose he could say the same for my love of road trips. They put me in a romantic spirit, completely refreshed and feeling invigorated about life. I love sitting cozily in the car with loved ones, the sound of the wheels on the road as we make our escape, and discovering unfamiliar lands. Filled with delight and wonder, we explore new territory – sight, sound, taste, smell - our senses rejuvenated. Then with a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment we drive home, the perfect time to reflect, unwind and exchange favorite parts of the day. Arriving on a familiar street, we turn into a well worn driveway, the garage door beckons and a single lighted lamp softly welcomes us back. Comfort, security, the intimacy of our own home. Familiar, yet renewed. Life seems fresh again.


Cheers to Best Friends

What I love about friendship is that it offers variety. There are the friends who are full of wisdom and give great advice, and then there are the attentive listeners who know when advice is not really what's wanted or needed. There are the partiers who always know how to have a good time, drawing you out of your comfort zone, and then there are the friends who don't need to be entertained and for whom your company will always be enough. There are the friends who challenge you, living ambitiously and inspiring through good example, and then there are the troubled ones, down on their luck, but who willingly accept your help and guidance, giving you a sense of value and worth.

I remember struggling as a child with girlfriends who were envious of others' friendships. It's a natural human tendency to want to connect and fit in - oh, to be popular! But I believe, to some extent, what set me apart was the realization that I didn't have to be best friends with all of my pals, and if one of them had another close friend, it wasn't a threat or something to be taken personally. Instead I understood that each person had something particular to offer, and like them, I couldn't be everything, I could only be myself. I was a good listener, but not necessarily a great conversationalist; creative, but not athletic; sometimes a leader, but mainly a follower; not picky, selective or judgmental, but on the other hand, not courageous or decisive. And that was okay. I exhibited particular traits and like a puzzle, my friends presented the corresponding pieces. None of them had to be everything, but each of them offered something unique.

Last weekend, my best friend from all the way back to the sixth grade, came to visit. We call each other "best friends" because our friendship has lasted the test of time. Knowing someone that long allows you to know one another in a way that not many others do. You know each other's parents and siblings and the house they grew up in. You know their background and therefore you understand the basis of their faults, weaknesses, strengths and aspirations.

(Trip to the OKC Omniplex, eighth grade)

Jennie and I are sort of like sisters. We've realized over the years how different we are from one another and we recognize that we both have other friends who can meet the needs that we can not fulfill for one another. However, we can share our deepest regrets without fear of rejection, and we can offer the truth even when it hurts, because we know it comes from a place of deep compassion and honest friendship.

(Ski Trip, 2001)

When Jennie came to visit, she was training for a half marathon which she'll run the weekend before I run my 10k. All my life she has been an example of determination. While I was doing my intervals of 90 second run, 2 minute walk, she ran 5 miles! But the important thing was that she motivated me to get out there and do it despite the cold weather and snow!

Clothes shopping was also on our list of things accomplished. Jennie served as my personal Stacy and Clinton. She joked that anyone who found out she was giving me fashion advice would laugh. But I was tired of wearing mommy clothes on date night. So when it came down to it, I really needed her to push me out of my rut and add some spice to my wardrobe.

And finally, Jennie talked to me about "Doing". Stop over thinking, stop procrastinating, stop adding to the list of things required to finish a project. Just plow through, finish, and feel the glory of a lightened load (ie, one more craft project completed!)

Thank you, Jennie, for offering three of the puzzle pieces I've been missing for a while. Thank you for seeing me for who I am and, better yet, for seeing me for the best I can be.