Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alphabet Adventure: Letter A Week!

Note: The draft of this entry has been in my blog all week and I kept forgetting to post!  We are already almost done with B week but here is A week!

A while ago I stumbled on some really great websites and blogs of other stay-at-home mothers that are doing "tot school" with their little ones.  These varied from really structured curriculums to loosely themed weeks for the kids.  I liked a lot of what I was seeing and decided that once Henry turned 2 that we'd embark on an "Alphabet Adventure" where each week we would concentrate on a different letter.  He's always seemed interested in learning new things and has a tremendous memory so I figured we would both benefit from adding a "structured" part of our days at home.

I've collected a good deal of supplies, learning toys, games, etc. over the summer and have planned out a lot of what we're going to do over the next 26 weeks.  It's been fun seeing what other mothers are doing and putting together plans for what Henry and I can do together. 

Each week will have consistent components:
-Letter and shape dry-erase activities (a lot of tracing and circling) having to do with the letter of the week and various skills (like straight lines, curved lines, shapes, etc.).  These are compiled in sheet protectors in his "school book" that I made for him.  I printed the coversheet with some things that he really likes (train and Little Einsteins' rocket).  He can write right on the sheet protectors and we can wipe them off so he can do the worksheets over and over throughout the week.
-Letter of the Week craft: We'll make a craft that incorporates the letter using something that starts with that letter. (i.e. apple print A, a D with feathers and a bill to make it a duck, etc.)
-Magnet/Dot Sheets:  Henry loves playing with small magnets that I got at the dollar store and also bingo dotters/daubers.  I've found that there are a lot of printables online that offer shapes, letters, etc. with open dots for kids to fill in with magnets or dots.  I taped a sheet protector to an extra cookie sheet that we had and I can slide the worksheet into it and Henry can move the magnets around as he wants.   (He LOVES this. I will probably post about this again later.)
-Three different "tot trays" with activities corresponding (when I can) with the letter of the week.  These trays have activities that he can do by himself or with a little guidance from me. I have them in baskets under our coffee table for him to explore as he wants.
-Practical skill practice activities like gluing, hand washing, spreading butter, cooking, etc.
-Books gathered that go with letter of the week

This week we started our Alphabet Adventure with the letter A! 

We got an early start since the family had their annual trip to Masker Orchard for apple picking.  Henry got really into it and practically ate his weight in apples!  When we got home Henry helped make an apple pie! 

His "school book" had some uppercase and lowercase letter As in it that have dotted lines to encourage tracing.  He's been calling them "railroad tracks" and is actually doing okay tracing the lines.  He's used his book on his own this week, which is fun to see!

Other things we did:
-We used an apple cut in half to make an apple-print A craft for the alphabet book we'll put together as we go through the adventure. 

-He practiced using his "chop sticks" (giant wooden tweezers) to transfer acorns from one container to another.

-His animals went on airplane rides during playtime.
-We read A books we got from the library like "Amanda and Her Alligator" by Mo Willems.
-We visited the animals at the local nature park.
-He and Daddy made a construction paper ant.
-We made and ate "Ants on the Log" using celery from Eddie's parents' garden.  (Henry LOVED this!)

-We made an apple tree using a recycled toilet paper roll, some cardboard from our recycling bin and a few red pom-poms.  The finished product was pretty cute.

Here is a picture of Henry "working" at his desk.

One Letter Adventure Week down, 25 to go!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Disneyland Half Marathon

For you blog-regulars you may remember reading a copious amount of posts leading up to the Disney World Half-Marathon late last fall.  You may be surprised to read that I ran another half-marathon last weekend!  I didn't write much about it here mostly because I wasn't writing much here, about anything....also my training was sporadic.

But I do want to write about my experience to share it with my readers but also for myself to reference in the future.

After we finished our races at Disney World in January, we (the Seavers Siblings) decided we wanted to take on Disney's Coast to Coast Challenge.  They offer a bonus "Coast to Coast" medal to runners who completed a half-marathon (or longer) at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California in the same calendar year.  Yes...we were suckered in by the bonus race "bling".  But you have to admit, it's pretty awesome:

As I noted before, my training for this half-marathon (13.1 miles) was sporadic, disorganized, lazy, etc.  Part of the issue was the fact that I spent a lot of the summer away in VA/NC where I was busy with work/family/friends and it was approximately 402 degrees with 140% humidity even at 6:30am.  Also, I didn't feel much inspiration to run and didn't really get back into my stride (get it...stride?!) until August, which was a little close to the race!  My longest training run was only 10 miles because my 12 mile training run was scratched due to a hard lesson learned about putting Bengay-esque muscle cream on your feet the night before you run.  (It makes your feet feel like they are on fire, causing you to douse them mid-run with the grape flavored sports water in the middle of the running/walking/biking trail....twice.  I also ended up walking part of that "run" barefoot.  Ugh.  It was not fun!)

I went into the race weekend knowing that I wasn't going to be near my time from the Disney World half from January. This was disappointing in many ways but there wasn't anything I could do about it so I set a goal of 2:10 (that's two hours and ten minutes), which I wasn't even sure I could do based on my pace from my longest training run of 10 miles.

Ellen, Karen, Kevin, Mike and I got dropped off at the airport on Friday afternoon and started our journey west.  We flew American Airlines and enjoyed their pre-flight safety video.  (The man around 2:55 was our favorite part and we quoted his safety tip often during the weekend.)   We had a short layover in Dallas before making it to California.  (Ellen and Mike checked two states off their list that day!)  Karen had arranged a shuttle for us to take us to our hotel so we met them and began our drive to Anaheim from LAX airport.  We made it to the hotel around 1am local time, which felt like 4am home time!  After dealing with some confusion about our reservation. (They told us that they room "held 5" but only had "two queen beds"....I mean, the room could have held 30 people but that doesn't mean there would be a place for everyone to sleep!)  We got a roll-away cot delivered and had to rearrange furniture and put some chairs in our closet in order to make room.  But at that point it was like 4am and we were a bit punchy (everything was hilarious!) and we just wanted to get to sleep.

The race expo opened at 9 so we planned to get there in time for that.  It didn't turn out to be so bad getting up for it since our bodies thought 9am was noon.  We had free breakfast at our hotel and then headed to the Disneyland Resort Hotel to get our race bibs and see the expo.  Our hotel location was PERFECT as it was literally across the street from the Disney Parks and a short walk to Downtown Disney and the expo site.  We picked up our bibs and explored the expo.  For those of you non-runners reading this, the expo is a big convention hall full of vendors selling all sorts of running paraphernalia ranging from athletic wear (including running tutus) to energy bars, custom medal framing and muscle stretchers.

After the expo we headed into Disneyland.  I had visited the park back in November 2009 when I was there for an orientation conference.  The park has some of the same rides and attractions as Disney World but feels a lot different.  The castle, for example, is TINY.  I enjoy the park but find it a lot less magical than Disney World.  Small castle aside, we enjoyed riding the rides, looking for hidden Mickeys and figuring out what we should eat with the race the next morning. We ended the night with a delicious meal at a Panera-esque restaurant in Downtown Disney.  I really enjoyed my day with everyone.  Since I am an only child I enjoy getting to have siblings of my own now thanks to marrying Eddie. 

We headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime since we had to be in our starting corrals for the race by 5:00am. 

The alarm went off at 3:35 and we started getting geared up.  The hotel provided "breakfast" early for runners but it turned out to be some fruit and granola bars.  It wasn't bad, I suppose, but no bagels, oatmeal, etc. that they had offered the day before.  We headed out of our hotel around 4:30am and joined a sea of runners heading towards the start.  When I say sea of runners, I'm not exaggerating.  14,836 people FINISHED the race so add on however many people started but didn't make it to the end!

We hit up bathrooms along the way (integral part of race prep!) and made our way to our starting corrals.  Runners are broken down into a handful of groups based on either previous race times or estimated times.  This keeps the elite (read: FAST) runners in the front where they aren't going to run over those less fast runners.  Disney does things right: The National Anthem was complete with red rockets glaring at the appropriate time, there were countdowns for each corral's start, characters at the start, etc. 

The weather was cool and not humid, which is my favorite! I was feeling really good at this point, both mentally and physically.  (For me, mental state is almost a bigger deal than physical state when I run.)  I started my watch, turned on my iPod and was off! 

I had looked at the course map the night before and determined that the race had three parts:

1) Miles 1-4.something: Through The Parks
I enjoyed this part of the run, especially the part that took us through the California Adventure park because I had never been to that park.  I really liked seeing all of the various sections of the park, especially the new Cars-land.  (We had watched the movie for the first time the week before the race and I'm really glad that I did....that part of the park looked JUST like the movie!)  The sun hadn't really come up yet so the lights were really neat.  There were a handful of costumed characters in the parks.  There were not a lot of spectator spots, which was very different from the race in Disney World.  One frustrating part of this leg of the race was the first water station, which was set up in a narrow spot of the course and so it caused a bottleneck.  I ended up having to basically slow to a walk because of the amount of people. 

I knew that I wanted to keep a 10 min/mile pace and not push too hard towards the beginning.  I was feeling good so I started to keep a faster pace.

2) Miles 4.something - 9.something: Streets of Anaheim to Angels Stadium
I expected the streets of Anaheim to feel like running through a city but really it was just like a normal town and pretty boring, really.  Disney did coordinate local high school marching bands, cheerleaders, dance teams, mariachi dancers, and quite a few Antique Car Clubs to have things to hear and to look at along the way.   My favorite part of this leg of the race was watching the sun rise over the mountains in the distance.  It was beautiful.

I was still feeling good at a little faster pace and didn't even start to think like I was tired or didn't want to run anymore.  I don't think I've ever felt so good mentally during a race! 

In the last month or so I've realized that because my days are usually busy running has become a time for me to be alone in my thoughts and to think about my friends, family and others.   Along the race route I found motivation for running by thinking of others that I was reminded of along the way.  Things like the antique cars reminding me the strength of a friend who lost a car-enthusiast father to cancer or the sign from a cancer survivor reminding me of my cousin and her family, and even the headband I wore with tiny hearts on it to remind me of Henry and how amazing he was this past spring when he had to get his pacemaker really kept my mind in a good place as I ran. 

3) Miles 9.something - 13.1: Stadium to Finish Line
We got to run into Angels Stadium, which was pretty cool.  We came in the back right field gate, ran around the perimeter of the field, around home plate and back out towards left field.  There were a lot of spectators here and they had the jumbotron on with a video of us running through the stadium.  I liked this part of the run a lot and it really pumped me up to push towards the finish.

I still felt pretty good and pushed my pace a little bit more during this last part of the race that took us back towards the parks and to the finish line.  I hit the 13 mile marker and pushed for a strong finish.  Goofy was hanging out right before the finish so I gave him a high five and finished the race!  My running GPS watch said that I had run 13.19 in 2:07:56 and my official Disney time was 13.1 in 2:07:53.  Either way I beat my goal time by 2 minutes and felt great!  (Seriously, I can't say how good I felt considering I had just run 13.1 miles...runner's high I suppose.)


I collected my finishers medal and then stood in a long line (obnoxious!) to get my Coast to Coast medal. 

I picked up my water and snacks and headed to meet up with Kevin and Ellen who had finished ahead of me.  We walked back towards the finish and heard them call Karen's name as she finished.  We met up with Karen and then found a good place to watch Mike finish.  It was his first half-marathon (and only his second race ever!) and he did it...and with a smile on his face!  It was a good morning to be a Seavers-Mendez!

We got a post-race picture taken and we walked back to the hotel for showers.  Once we were all de-stinkified we headed back to the parks!  That's right, we had just completed a 13.1 mile race and we headed out to WALK AROUND the rest of the day.  Crazy, but we did it!  (That's what happens when you spend the money to fly across the country and get a two-day park get out there and take advantage!)  We finished up what we hadn't done at Disneyland and then went over to California Adventure.   I liked seeing that park without having to run through it!  The park was fun (though not a place I'd want to spend more than part of a day) and we ended the night by watching their World of Color show, which was really neat.  Think Bellagio fountain show with colored lights and Disney soundtrack music.

After the night show we walked back to the hotel, packed our bags and fell into bed since our airport shuttle was picking us up at 4!  We all woke up on time and got into the shuttle for the airport.  We made it to the airport and through security in plenty of time for our flight.  We all wore our medals and race shirts and had two different people ask if we were Olympians.... seriously. 

Our flight took us through Chicago's O'Hare airport, which added another state for Ellen and Mike!  After a little layover we got on our final flight from Chicago to New York.  We landed a few hours later and met up with Eddie's dad, who was our ride home.

All in all, it was a really fun weekend.  I really enjoyed spending the time with the siblings and outlaw (what Mike and I call ourselves).

And now starts a new countdown.....126 days until the Disney World FULL Marathon.  I've already started my training and am actually looking forward to the whole thing...I may not feel the same way when my long runs are 14..15..16..20 miles.  But for now, I'm keeping my positive attitude and enjoying my runs!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We have a two year old....

Somehow almost a month has gone by since the last blog entry....time is doing some serious flying around here! Since the last post our little Henry has turned TWO! I can hardly believe that two years have past by already. Poor Henry spent most of his actual birthday in the car as we traveled south to my parents' house. We were able to, however, sing him Happy Birthday, blow out candles and eat cupcakes upon our arrival at their house. He was actually excited about the candles and the cake, which is an improvement on last year when he wouldn't even touch his cake!

The trip south was for us to attend a wedding of a former student we worked with.  We saw a bunch of students we used to work with at the wedding, which was nice.  While I am thankful for being able to stay home with Henry, I do miss the student aspect of what I used to do.  I really loved the students I got to work with from my job, my time with the marching band and band service fraternity, and the Eddie's RAs.  (So if you are a student from CNU that I used to work with, just know that I miss you!) 
We also used the trip as an opportunity to see a lot of our friends.  We had people over to my parents' house for a birthday party for Henry, which was also an excuse just to relax with friends.  It was the first time we had a lot of little kids over and it was a lot of fun!  Henry enjoyed himself and so did we!  The theme of the party was Robots for two reasons: 1) We call Henry's pacemaker his "robot". 2) Michael's (the craft store) had a boatload of Robot stuff on superclearance over the summer. 

Last year we snapped a photo of the kiddos of my close college friends so we took another one this year for tradition. Trying to capture the photo was hilarious as there wasn't much child-cooperation going on but we managed to get a decent one of everyone looking mostly toward the camera.  I hope put last year's photo with it for comparison:

It was a really fun weekend and we were glad we could celebrate Henry's birthday with our VA friends.  We even got a bonus visit with my good friends that live in Chicago but were visiting home (VA) that weekend! 
We got back to New Jersey and the following weekend we had another gathering for Henry's birthday.  It was the first "event" we have hosted in our home and I think it was a success.  Everyone had a good time, Henry was a happy camper and he even ate his cupcake again!
Henry entertained everyone with his block-stacking skills.  He got the blocks as a gift that night and was VERY excited about stacking them.  He kept shouting "LOOK AT THAT!" after he stacked a few. 

We are really lucky to have really amazing family and friends and were glad that we could have them together to celebrate Henry.

I have another blogpost coming up about the Disneyland Half Marathon that I ran with Eddie's siblings over the weekend.