Grateful For Graduates – May 2014

Graduation season is upon us and our family celebrated two school milestones. Will moves out of Elementary school and is heading into middle school. So far at their elementary school we have had such incredible experiences and top-notch teachers. Of all of the teachers there, Will seemed to have the best of the best. They were constantly looking to make him reach for higher levels, never just being satisfied with reaching the Common Core bar. They were also a large contributor to his quiet confidence that, in my opinion, is one of his greatest qualities next to his desire to laugh with others. In short, I'm darn proud of, scratch that, impressed by what this kid has done so far with education and his interest to learn.

Charlie is moving on from the loving arms of his fantastic teachers at The Pre-School at the Greenway (thank you Mrs. Janet and Mrs. Melody!) to Kindergarten. Our little guy has grown so much this year. I can't remember if I have spent time on it here or not but Charlie was diagnosed a little over a year ago with Sensory Integration Disorder or SID. While you won't find in the listing of 'Top 25 Most Traumatic Disorders, if undiagnosed it can cause future issues in learning and disruptive behaviors in the classroom. Earlier in the school year he 'graduated' from occupational therapy where we all learned about his need to hone his fine motor skills, techniques to help calm him when his mind starts to spiral into more and more busyness and his need for physical activity. He literally needs to be run. Days of less activity cause his mind to race even more which invariably ends up with some significant, emotional outburst. His therapy sessions with Ms. Casey helped strengthen his core muscles and improve his coordination and balance (which only in hindsight did we notice he tended to fall a good bit) which also help alleviate his restlessness. Although we still notice he can get wound up or “Rainman-like” with periods of immense focus on one subject, he is worlds better since working with Ms. Casey. One of the most interesting aspects of this time has been watching how Cindy and I have had to learn about this and how we had to recognize it could affect our demeanor. It was/is hard for us to not take his struggles personally and feel personally responsible for causing the disorder. At times even harder to work through the techniques to help him versus falling into the trap of fatigue and frustration which only help fuel his frustration.

All of this detail to say we are proud of the boy he has become while at Pre-school and excited to see what is ahead for him in Elementary school. He's going to miss Mrs. Janet and Mrs. Melody, but who in their right mind wouldn't miss being around those loving ladies and their hugs? The excitement he has, while not fully shared by his sister, for going to the same school as Stewart seems to be outweighing and grief he may have from moving on from the Preschool at the Greenway.

Speaking of Stewart, she had a great year in 3rd grade where she seemingly mastered handwriting. I know, it is a 1st grade teaching but given the boat anchor she has from my genes here, I am pretty excited she focused on getting a handle on it. This year she found that if she writes smaller she somehow writes neater. I'll take it. We also saw here stop the habit of racing to be first done on her work and tests. It wasn't until we saw papers coming home with half finished tests (and the score to match!) that we realized she was dong this. It is amazing what double-checking your work can do for one's grades. She's going to try her hand at voice lessons this summer and might even give a tennis camp a try. She's the apple of my eye and it is hard not to always be biased towards her side as my only daughter.

Summer starts off with one of our favorites trips, Hilton Head/Sea Pines with Grammy and Poppy. Wish we could find a way to spend much more time down there as there's nothing quite like life under the hammock of trees.

Click here for a slideshow of the end of year school activities.

Click here for a slideshow of other random May 2014 happenings

 

Grateful for April – Spring, Camping, Bike Races, CRBR and more!

 

The month of April and Spring in general in the Carolinas is in my opinion why this area is such a desired place to live.  The deeper south and Florida (not part of the south in my mind), visit and see how cool and temperate our weather is.  They see true Carolina blue skies devoid of all humidity.  They see the new green that has re-emerged on trees, bushes and in our yards and how it contrasts with the aforementioned blue sky and they get it.  They see the cool mornings and evenings surrounding days that make you never want to go inside and they long for it.  The northerners see the same thing but instead are contrasting the harsh reality that is a tailing winter they still face in their land.  Carolina in the spring is just awesome and it is something I’m grateful to be a part of each of my past 19 years.

This Spring (April) we:

Watched concerts (ok, just me and a running buddy),

Weezer at The Fillmore

Spent a fun kid-free weekend in Charleston at the Cooper River Bridge Run with good friends,

Celebrated Easter (and only took this single picture…sad, we know),

Enjoyed a staycation in Charlotte showing up late to work and leaving early to do fun things with the kids,

Oriented ourselves with Will’s middle school (how can this be?!?),

Watched the Charlotte Criterium (those blurry things are fast-moving bikes) and

  

Camped out at the kid’s favorite trip to Camp Cherokee.  This place is so great and run by a fantastic staff!  It’s a YMCA Camp near King’s Mountain with archery, rock walls, canoeing/kayaking, swimming, disc golf, hiking, etc.  Fun, fun place.

  

All of that surrounded by life in between.  The diversity of it all is what I think I enjoy the most.  Fun kid-free weekends, fun kid-full weekends like our camping trips yet the most memorable to me are the random things we choose to do as a five-some.  Our weekday, spring break, impromptu evening at the ASC Greenway where we had a picnic, ran playing tag and tossed the ball/frisbee is one of those memories that seems to stick the most from last month.  Isn’t it funny how the simplest things are often the best?

Click here for the slideshow of our April events.

Click here for the slideshow of the Adventure Guides Camp Cherokee Outing

Grateful for Clean

Two Thursdays ago ended my first-ever dietary cleanse and I already know it will not be my last. The idea started a few months back when Cindy and I tossed around the idea of partaking in a juice cleanse. Somehow the idea evolved into a period of time where we would eat healthy foods only. This quickly became lacking in any meaningful structure and being a man who values his borders, I needed more. Cindy being a woman who needs a good plan got on the case and found us the right formula. Gone was the idea of being all about juice. So what did it become? I’m glad you asked.

What was out:
– Processed or refined sugar
– Honey
– Dairy
– Yes, even cheese
– All breads
– Non-tree Nuts (peanut butter, etc)
– Soy products
– Anything processed
– Alcohol
– Juice
– Coffee – I drew the line here. I had black coffee without remorse

What was in:
– All fruits
– All veggies
– Water
– Coconut milk
– Whole grains (quinoa, steel cut oats, etc)
– Beans (ideally fresh, if not rinsed thoroughly)
– Fish
– Olive oil
– Hummus
– Raw tree-based nuts (Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, etc)
– Dried, no sugar added fruits

Here’s what a typical meal plan for a day was:
Breakfast: Green smoothie (spinach, frozen peaches, coconut milk, plant-based protein powder, flax seed, chia seeds, ice)
Snack 1: Fruit and 10-12 almonds
Lunch: Sliced veggies and hummus, quinoa salad
Snack 2: Fruit and almond butter, more raw nuts
Dinner: Baked/Grilled fish, pan-seared veggies in olive oil, something with beans.
Dessert (12 hours or more before breakfast): Almond butter, dates, apple slices

So what was the “so what” of it? Overall it was a good thing but clearly not something sustainable long term for me. I simply missed cheese too much. While interesting I found it also took some of the fun out food. We tended to hide our cleanse from the outside world (although work peeps did pick up on my new habit of bringing my lunch) and avoided the numerous temptations presented when eating out. While tough at times, the cleanse did bring a few eye-opening benefits:
1. I was MUCH more alert during the day from day 3-10
2. Given most of the food was fiber-rich, I was hungry very quickly after eating most snacks and meals
3. It felt like I was snacking all day
4. I slept amazingly well
5. Did I mention I missed cheese?
6. It did reduce my strong nightly desire for dessert
7. Daily meal planning required more time/effort
8. You must re-enter the world of dairy carefully (trust me here).

In summary, I am taking away good things from the cleanse. Michael Pollan’s mantra of “eat real foods, not too much, mostly plants” was further emphasized as a great way to address food. The cleanse proved that real food can be prepared simply, taste good and satisfy while giving you plenty of energy to live a full day of activities. The cleanse also made shopping very simple, although not necessarily more affordable. Most food shopping was limited to the produce section – far fewer choices. I enjoyed having a partner (Cindy) to keep me honest and support the process (note I also didn’t mention her “being out” after Day 8 of our 10 Day Cleanse).

The cleanse is something I’d like to do 3-4 times a year as a reminder to tighten up my eating habits and help force myself to remember normal portion sizing behaviors. It will help me make better decisions when eating out and look to drive down the amount of processed food choices that can be made in a day. Oh yeah, and I think my running thanks me for it too!

Grateful for 9…but please slow it down!

 

My little girl turned 9 this month.  While so far we have a million good memories and smiles it dawned on me shortly after her birthday that in the same amount of time she’ll be in college!  What!?!?!  Makes me shake my head.  It all is going by so very fast.  This isn’t so much a surprise as it is a reality.  Most people I know who have older kids have told me regularly to embrace every second as it goes by so very fast.  I’m here to tell you that so far they are right.

What I also know is this sweet 9 year old girl has taught me so much more than she knows.  She’s taught me that nearly every event that involves leaving the house should excite me to the point of jumping up and down.  She’s taught me to love bubble gum pop music, so much so that I run with many of her favorite songs in my running playlist.  She’s taught me to love more deeply.  Her tears in movies when a good character gets hurt makes me tear up.  She’s taught me to be bolder.  Wearing mismatched sock like no one cares is liberating and fun.  Who knows, I might even start wearing bright socks to work with my suits – it looks like fun.  She’s taught me know matter how smart I think I am I’ll never fully understand women.  She’s also taught me that a hug and a kiss can make everything ok.

She’s one of a kind filled to the brim with awesome.  I couldn’t be prouder of her.

Her birthday events lasted only about 10 days this year, down from roughly 3 weeks last year. :)  First at 1×1 sleepover with her good friend Lucy.  Then the family party at Thi’s Vietnamese in Rock Hill on her actual birthday.  Side note for locals:  eat at this restaurant and don’t order from the menu.  Ask Thi to choose for you and to prepare something nice.  We’ve never had anything we didn’t like yet rarely have experienced any of the food she serves.  Along with the cake we brought, she made homemade donuts with tons of powdered sugar which Stewart absolutely loved!  Then a lunch party at her school.  Then a skate party at Kate’s Skates in Rock Hill.  Yep – mom and dad skating in all our glory.  We learned that the skating rink smell is unchanged in 25 years.  I also learned that I might actually be a better ice skater than roller skater (this is a low bar).  Stewart loved every second of it – 10 girls yipping and yapping about a rink for hours.  I still loved seeing Stewart spend time with the weaker skaters to make sure they didn’t feel left out – she’s got a good heart.

Lastly, Stewart and I enjoyed a Daddy/Daughter date to witness some amazing high school girls receive awards for their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math abilities.  We dressed up and had a fancy dinner at the Ritz in downtown Charlotte.  Memorable good times for just the two of us.

She seemed to have a great few days.  See for yourself – slideshow of her birthday can be found here.

We’ve had a fun month in March…see other random events in this slideshow.

 

 

Grateful for the Mangum Track Club

So there’s this place called Ellerbe, NC.  Population 1,027 where a group 1/10 of their population shows up to participate in my favorite marathon.  At one point, Andre the Giant and Bennie Parsons (NASCAR) were a part of this town’s population (god rest their souls).  100 or so runners mixed with as many first timers as it has people running this event as a part of their long training run that day or people who ran a marathon the weekend before or plan to the next day.  That’s the type of draw it has.  Needless to say, you don’t show up in your marathon shirt from your prior marathon and expect to stand out.  These people have tattoos of their hundredth marathon on their calves so you can see it as either you or they run by.  Some tattoo their favorite running club on their body.  Dedication to their sport.  8 aid stations, a super-courteous race director named Mark and a race reporter who both takes pictures and captures quotes for his story in what can only be presumed as the Ellerbe paper’s (maybe the Richmond Times?).

John, Jason and I ran our 8th, 7th and 4th Ellerbe Marathons respectively this year.  Much to Cindy’s chagrin we actually trained for it.  We all agreed this training paid off for the event.  We did Yasso’s and hill training.  We all agreed the late race heat and potentially a quick pace early made the last 4-5 miles hurt more than they should have.  At mile 13 I did some math with Jason and thought a 3:20 time would be do-able and at minimum a race PR was well within reach.  I kept the pace up until mile 20/21 when I was told otherwise by my body.  My legs were fine, a little tired in the calves, but my stomach wasn’t great.  I was eating and drinking but a stiff “gurgle or slosh belly” kept me from feeling great.  I’ve been here before – it feels like you could throw up but you can’t.  If you could, or at minimum have the belch of a lifetime then things would get back to good quickly.  Unfortunately, that belch came about 5 minutes after the end of the race…though, it did feel great.  I suffered up what is a bear of a last 4 miles and yes, “up” was a deliberate word choice.  Even with a late race breakdown, I love this race.  Finished 3:35 (pace: 8:15, Garmin Data is here)  which was my 3rd best Ellerbe I think.  Won 2nd in my age group and finished 8th overall.  My 7th place finish went up in smoke where the only person who passed me in the race came steaming by me at mile 25.  I loved thinking about pacing in with him but all I could do was think about it.  Nonetheless, dumplings, iced tea, slaw and a 2nd place finisher’s mug awaited.

Good times.  Next race?  Not sure.

Grateful for my Homeland

 

There’s a Will Smith song that comes to mind when I hear the word Miami, but I can neither remember the title of the song nor a catchy lyric from it.  Just know that there is.  As a good excuse to celebrate Cindy’s 41st and catch up with great friends, the Seiberts, we headed to Key Biscayne in Miami for a long weekend of pretty much just relaxing.  It was pretty great and not just because the hotel had a buffet of free Valentine’s Day candy set up at the entrance.

It struck me talking to Cindy on the way down to Miami about what people think about when thinking of Florida that I am really grateful to have grown up in South Florida.  As an aside, we couldn’t really come up with much beyond older folks and sunshine to characterize Florida – would love to know what you think.  Not having an immediate thought pop into you mind when you think about a state’s characteristics isn’t always a bad thing, just ask Alabama or Alaska. :)  Seeing the sunrise out of the ocean and enjoying some beautiful weather in February when the rest of the country was dealing with a snowstorm is not too shabby.  Seeing diversity beyond what we have in much of the rest of the country and experiencing all of the benefits of such diversity is also pretty great.  Interestingly enough, seeing waterways everywhere and boats and marine/tropical life (Ibis, huge lizards, etc.) is something I only now realize how much I took for granted growing up as I really enjoyed seeing it in such abundance again.  Lastly, bikes.  South Florida had a huge population of cyclists and on Saturday morning they apparently flock to the Key Biscayne area.

While in Miami we ate at the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab (in spite of the 3 hour wait that no patrons seemed to even flinch at, nor did we until doubt kicked in at the 2:45 minute mark)  and the several decent spots in Key Biscayne.  We wandered the Bayside Mall and enjoyed the marina there with some early day Mohitos from the MojitoBar in spite of their tricky, almost bait-switch pricing tactics (buyer beware).  But mostly we enjoyed relaxing by the pool or over a meal with good friends we see way too infrequently.  If you can’t be grateful for picking right back up where you left off, whether it be with your home state return or with close friends, then enjoyment isn’t your gig.

Speaking of enjoyment – hope you enjoy this brief slideshow as much as we enjoyed the times behind the photos.

February 2014: Winter Storm PAX!!

After nearly a week of daily updates, warnings, bread loaf ratings of this wintry storm it actually happened. It is not unlike the Charlotte area to talk it up big and not have anything to show for it. This storm came in on Wednesday midday, dropped 6-8 inches on Fort Mill and then stuck around on Thursday to drop another 3-4 inches. A full winter walloping! A storm like this is pretty welcome so long as it only happens once. We sledded, had snowball fights, rolled snowmen, ran in it, drove in it and shoveled it. For 2 days we were northerners. On day 3 it was melted which gives us a leg up on the north.

Fun times for all. Even more fun to drive out on icy roads on Friday morning to fly to sunny south Florida for a Valentines/Birthday celebration with Cindy. We are pretty fortunate folks.

Click here for a sled show of the fun!