I finished my first 12K!!!

And amazingly enough, I did not finish last overall!

(I was close, though. Overall, I came in # 171 out of 180, I was # 96 out of 100 women, and I came in last place in my age group.)

But the truly important thing is that I finished it. I saw a woman’s shirt this morning before the race that encouraged me. It said

DLF > DNF > DNS

(Dead Last Finish > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start)

It was a nice reminder. Even if I finish absolute last, at least I finished!

I took a lot more walking breaks than I probably ought, but I needed them. After my scare on Thursday when my calves felt like they were about to declare war on the rest of my body, I knew that pushing myself too hard wouldn’t be good. Plus, it’s not like I’ve been training nonstop the past few weeks like I should have been. I needed to take care of myself, which meant taking walking breaks.

So, I didn’t finish in 80 minutes like I wanted. I didn’t even finish in 90 minutes. I ultimately ran my 12K in 1:37:31, which meant I averaged about a 13:05 mile. And for my first 12K, and especially for not feeling adequately prepared for the race, I’m pretty happy with that time.

Plus it just leaves room for improvement.

All my fears about inclement weather were for naught. The morning was perfect, and I don’t think I could have asked for better running weather.

Sunrise over the registration area.

An early-morning, pre-race view of Lake Minneola.

The Earth Day 12K was a much smaller race than Disney’s Family Fun Run. Between the 12K runners and the 5K runners, there were still a bit fewer than 300 people there to race. That meant that the course didn’t feel congested at all, though it might have helped that I was also trailing almost everyone there.

I arrived early to get my packet and get myself psyched up for the race. I was extremely anxious; I had all kinds of running-related dreams last night. By the time 4AM rolled around, I was ready to start the day. I ate, hydrated, and stretched at home, but I also figured it wouldn’t hurt to do some extra stretches while I was waiting for Theresa to arrive.

I affixed my chip timer…

My chip timer and my New Balance sneakers.

…pinned my bib…

The low number only means I registered early. It did not help me run any faster.

…and waited for Theresa.

Once she arrived and got her packet and shirt, the runners were already beginning to congregate at the starting line, so we hurriedly joined them. I ran with her for about half a mile before (wisely) deciding to hold back a bit and run at my own pace. Lots of runners passed me (obviously, since I came in close to last!), but I didn’t pay much attention to them. After all, this was a race with myself.

I will say this much about this morning’s race: it was a very pretty course. Some of the areas were residential, and I felt awkward about dropping my empty water cups on someones’ lawns (which is why I just carried them to the next water station), but I could admire the water throughout most of my run.

A view of the finish from the halfway point.

Unlike the Family Fun Run, and contrary what the course map led me to believe, there were not little mile markers posted to let me know how far I had gone. In fact, if not for my handy-dandy Garmin (I love that thing!), I wouldn’t have had a clue. (This, by the way, is not good, since those little mile marker thingies work as psychological rallying points for me.)

But the event staff did put out the marker for Mile 6…

The lone mile marker on the course.

…and the Finish Line didn’t seem as far away from this point.

The view of the finish line from the 6-mile mark.

It was still plenty far away, but it just seemed a whole lot closer.

Theresa met me at the edge of the park to cheer me on to the finish. She had already finished (# 45 out of 100 women with a 9:50 mile) but doubled back to wait for me. Is that a great running mentor, or what?

All in all, I feel good. Now that I’ve showered, hydrated, and had a little something to eat, I feel really accomplished, too. I’ve come a long way from when I first began C25K in January. I think I feel just as sore now as I did during that first week, but after completing 7.46 miles, I’ll cut myself some slack.

Our trip to the Nemours Children’s Clinic

The Boy and I went downtown today to meet with Samantha Garrett, the Senior Child Life Specialist at Nemours Children’s Hospital and my contact for donations. She graciously met us outside the building (I called ahead to let her know we were on our way) and took all the art supplies I had crammed into my car.

As he typically is with strangers, The Boy was initially bashful, but he quickly warmed up. He helped move things from my car to the cart that Samantha brought to take things up to the clinic. Since the Orlando hospital isn’t open yet, the coloring books and other art supplies will be used by kids at the clinic. The scrapbook paper I brought (from my own craft closet because, yes, I have that much) will be used once the hospital opens. In the meantime, Samantha told me there would be children’s workshops and events over the summer, so some of the supplies would be used then, as well.

All in all, we received our donation receipt with an estimated value of $300! (She said the scrapbook paper was of most value.) When I asked if he felt good about bringing everything to the clinic, The Boy said he was happy some kids would have something to do in the hospital. As for me, I’m elated to have purged my craft closet of a lot of stuff, especially since I know it will all be put to good use.

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The first lesson

The Boy has been asking for this since he was three years old, and today, he finally had his very first guitar lesson.

I was extremely nervous – and anxious – this morning. When I called George’s Music last week, I was informed that they typically don’t start lessons with kids until they’re at least 6, but they agreed to let Nico, one of their instructors, meet with The Boy to assess his readiness. I guess I was as nervous as I was because The Boy wants this so badly, and it would be heartbreaking to hear someone tell him, “Look, you’re just not ready for this yet.” It was bad enough that the music teacher at his school was trying to dissuade me; I didn’t think I could handle another letdown.

But as it turns out, all my anxiety was for naught. Nico told me he was pleasantly surprised to see how well The Boy was able to focus on learning to play, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear The Boy creating different sounds by holding down the strings at different frets. (That was the vocabulary word of the day.)

I’m getting ahead of the story, though.

There was crazy traffic on the freeway heading to George’s Music, so we were about 5 minutes late. Nico met us as we walked in, and the three of us headed upstairs to the music rooms for The Boy’s first lesson. I helped The Boy get his guitar out of its case (I don’t mind playing the part of “Roadie” right now) and let him choose a guitar pick. He sat down on the chair with Nico, and they began to talk.

“So, what made you decide to learn to play guitar?” Nico asked him.

“Well,” The Boy said, “at first I didn’t know if I wanted to play guitar or drums. But then I decided on guitar. And I’ll learn to play the drums when I’m 12.”

Nico smiled. “That’s cool. You know, I play the drums, and I play guitar, too. And I think guitar is a great first instrument for you.”

And with that, the lesson began.

If I didn’t know that this first lesson was also an assessment, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Nico very casually tested The Boy’s finger strength (and was pleasantly surprised – as was I – to find The Boy was able to hold down a string with all his fingers, including his pinky), his reading skills, and his memory.

“Eddie ate dynamite. Good-bye, Eddie!” is the mnemonic device used to remember the notes that the open strings on the guitar make. (Nico was very sweet and offered to come up with something different, but I assured him it wasn’t necessary.) The Boy needed to hear it a couple of times, but by the time we got home, he remembered the notes on the guitar, even out of order.

Nico gave The Boy some very basic homework for next week’s lesson:

  • Practice playing E and F. (E is easy; F is a little more difficult because he has to hold down the string.)
  • Memorize “Eddie ate dynamite; good-bye, Eddie!”
  • Remember the word “fret” and what it is on the guitar.

“So what do you think?” I asked Nico as The Boy put away his guitar and pick. “Is he ready to take lessons?”

Nico nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, definitely. I have to say I’m always skeptical when parents want to bring in a really young kid, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well he can keep his attention. I mean, most kids his age are squirming all over the place.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, good. I just want to make sure it won’t be too hard for you to work with him.”

He shrugged. “I don’t get frustrated working with little kids. I just don’t want parents to waste their money when their kid isn’t really into it. But I think he’ll be fine.”

The Boy finished packing up his stuff and we went downstairs to pay for this session and complete the paperwork to enroll him in continuous lessons. Nico spoke very quickly to the manager before we started filling out the forms, and I later found out that Nico said he thinks The Boy has some real talent.

And as proud as that makes me as a mom, I also think back to a quote I’ve heard many times:

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

– Robert Half

The Boy was eager to practice when we got home, and he wanted to practice tonight before bedtime, too. It’s only the first day and the first lesson, and it’s going to get much tougher as the weeks and months pass. So all I can hope is that he really works hard at this.

After all, he promised to stick with this for at least a year, and that means he’s got at least 51 more lessons to go.

The Boy is 5!

It may be cliche, but it’s so very true: I cannot believe that my little baby is now 5 years old.

We had a very busy – but fun! – day. It began with a trip to Dr W’s office for The Boy’s annual check-up. He is now a little more than 43″ tall and about 40.5 pounds. What’s crazy is that he has grown just a little less than 2 inches in the past year and gained a bit more than 4 pounds. He had his last immunization shot today (yes, I know it’s his birthday), but Dr W and his nurse told The Boy the best news of all: he doesn’t need to get another shot until he’s ready to go into the 7th grade. (His nurse was also pretty awesome; I don’t know how’s he did it, but she managed to give The Boy his shot without him realizing it. That meant no tears. Awesome, right?)

After his appointment, I took him to school, dropped off his updated immunization forms (no sense in delaying it, right?), then began the mad dash to get everything together for his birthday lunch.

(See, my birthday is in January and usually fell during Christmas break. As such, I didn’t have cupcakes at school on my birthday. And yes, I know I’m living vicariously through The Boy.)

First, I stopped at Walgreens to get some photos printed for The Boy’s Birthday Walk poster. (More on that in a bit.) I picked a few pictures I wanted printed, placed the order, and scurried off to pick up the cupcakes and pizzas.

I paused in the Publix parking lot to swap out The Boy’s car seat for a booster seat. He hasn’t exactly outgrown the Britax Marathon that I’ve had in my car for the better part of the past 4 and a half years, but he’s close. The tops is his ears are almost in line with the top of the car seat, and that means he’s ready for the booster seat.

That, alone, is hard to believe.

Anyway, once I finally got everything together, I returned to The Boy’s school in time for the start of the Birthday Walk. Now, this is the first time I’ve participated in something like this. It’s really cute and quite clever.

When I walked into the room with the drinks and food (sans cake; I had to go back to the car for that), The Boy was standing in the center of the carpet where his classmates were all sitting around him. In the center was a cloth on which a circle representing the seasons of the year was printed. In the middle of the circle was a yellow sun.

Ms. M instructed me to stand just outside the carpeted area where the kids were sitting. I held up the poster I had (admittedly) thrown together so hastily, and the Birthday Walk began.

Basically, the birthday celebrant recounts a little about each year of his or her life. The Boy spoke about things that happened before his first birthday, like getting his first haircut and learning how to eat with a spoon. Then he walked around the circle on the cloth and recounted events before his second birthday, and so on. Finally, after his fifth (and last) rotation, Ms. M asked him what his goals were for the coming year.

“I’d like to practice writing sentences,” he said finally after a long but thoughtful pause.

I had the option of taking The Boy home after lunch, but when I asked him if he wanted to go home or stay and do lessons, he opted to stay.

Well, it’s his birthday. If he wants to stay, who am I to deny him?

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The Boy’s social calendar

If you’d like to schedule a playdate or invite The Boy to a party, please note that his calendar is quickly filling up.

Last week, The Boy received an invitation to a birthday party (a first grader’s birthday party, no less) that was this afternoon. In his Friday backpack, he received another invitation, this time for the birthday party of a girl in a different class. (“She’s in Mrs. B’s class,” he informed us, adding proudly, “I’m the only one in my class who knows her.”)

Goodness, it’s tough being the parent of a popular kid.

Today’s party was a lot of fun. The celebrant’s younger brother is in The Boy’s class, and he already knew some of the other kids from After Care. Plus, he plays soccer with the celebrant on Fridays, so they’re buddies. As for me, I chatted with some of the other parents a bit and enjoyed watching the kids play in the bounce house.

The Boy’s own birthday is just about 6 weeks away, so Cute Husband and I need to start planning it. Right now Cute Husband and I are thinking of having it at a private park, but we’re not sure what we’ll do if it rains.

Ugh. Decisions, decisions. These really are First World problems.

And so it begins…

“What did you make in art class?” I asked The Boy yesterday when I picked him up from school.

“Um, it’s in my backpack,” he replied, putting down his stuff and opening his backpack. “See?” He pulled out a plastic bag with some beads and a length of ribbon. “I made a necklace but the beads fell out and I have to do it again.”

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe we can do that when we get home.”

“And I want to give the bracelet to my girlfriend.”

He said it so matter-of-factly, like it’s perfectly normal to be not-quite-5 and making jewelry to give to a girl. I take it in stride – without missing a beat – and replied, “Sure. That’s a great idea.”

Inwardly, I have to admit that I don’t like this. But if I react badly when he’s 4, how am I going to react when he’s 14?

His girlfriend, R, is very cute. They don’t play together, he says; they just walk around at recess and sit together in the classroom. He’s talked to Cute Husband about her, and we’ve agreed that the best way to handle this is to let him take the lead, meaning we aren’t to talk about it unless The Boy brings it up.

Anyway, after watching Transformers last night (the cartoon circa 1984, not the movie), he announced that he wanted to finish the bracelet to give to his girlfriend. I helped him and even gave him a few extra beads from my collection. When he was satisfied with it, I carefully knotted it to make sure the bracelet wouldn’t come undone.

The Boy's first real jewelry creation.

This morning, after a good night’s sleep (he seemed to have some pretty intense nightmares last night, though he says he doesn’t remember any of them), he decided not to give this bracelet to R, but announced that he wants to give it to E, his friend from his old school, instead.

Well, if it’s any consolation, I can rest secure in the knowledge that while girls will come in and out of his life, he’ll be my little boy forever.

Another playground milestone

When I arrived to pick up The Boy from school this afternoon, he was on the other side of the playground.

“Mom!” he yelled when he saw me.

“Hey, buds!”

“Watch this!” He ran straight for the monkey bars, which is like a yellow geodesic dome in the middle of the playground, hoisted himself up on them, and lowered himself until he was hanging upside down.

I froze for half a second. A part of me wanted to run over and get him off of that as quickly as possible, and another part of me cursed myself for leaving my phone in the car because I couldn’t get a picture of him hanging like a monkey. But I acted as naturally as I could and laughed, saying, “Okay, you little monkey. It’s time to go home.”

“I’m not a monkey!” he insisted, still upside down. “I’m a bat!”

The Boy’s first sleepover

Jen called me yesterday afternoon to ask a huge last-minute favor: Would I mind watching E for a few hours Friday night? Her regular sitter has a bad back injury and she needs someone to look after him. I explained that E would need to come to my house (Cute Husband was handed a last-minute project that would keep him at work late), and when she said that would be fine, I agreed and told The Boy that he would get to have his first sleepover.

“Mom!” he said excitedly. “I’ve never had a sleepover before!”

Okay, technically, it’s not a real sleepover. Jen will pick up E late in the evening, probably around 11:30 or so, and I explained to The Boy that E would be gone by the time he woke up in the morning. No matter; he’s super excited about having his very first sleepover.

Interestingly, entertaining two 4-year-olds is a lesson in fine-tuning one’s listening. The Boy and E were almost constantly talking from the moment E arrived, both to each other and simultaneously to me. I’ve finally managed to get them to quiet down, thanks to Dinosaur Train.

The true test, of course, will be in about 20 minutes when it will be time for both boys to get some sleep. I think they’ll both sleep in The Boy’s room, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

At any rate, The Boy is beside himself with excitement because he’s hosting a friend tonight and, as far as he’s concerned, having his first sleepover.

And it’s not likely to be the last.

Another milestone, this time on the playground

In all my excitement over my finished craft project, I completely forgot about The Boy’s big news yesterday:

He learned how to slide down a skinny vertical pole on the playground yesterday!

He told Cute Husband about it on the way home, so I saw a text that read “Learned how to slide down pole on playground” while I was in a late-afternoon meeting. As I tucked him into bed, I asked The Boy to tell me about it.

“Well,” he said, showing me the motions on an imaginary pole, “first you hold onto the pole with one hand like this, then put your other hand under it like this, then put your legs like criss-cross-applesauce around the pole like this, and then you just do it!”

He told me Mrs. G (the teacher’s assistant in his classroom) helped him the first time, holding him to ensure he didn’t fall, but after that, he slid down the pole on his own five more times.

His world of fun has just increased exponentially, and The Boy is so excited!

Checking off another milestone

Ever since two of his classmates mastered tying their shoes last month and got special attention on the classroom blog, The Boy has been trying very hard to tie his shoes. At the end of September, he figured out how to do the first step, and he was (understandably) quite proud of himself.

Well, this morning, while I was putting on my sneakers, he asked if he could help me tie my shoes. I agreed, and, like he has done for the last two weeks, he did the first step.

But this time, I encouraged him to keep going.

“Go on and make the bunny ears,” I suggested.

He made loops with part of the string, crossed them, and then tied my shoelaces. And when he looked at the finished product, he stared up at me, a mix of surprise and pride on his face.

I left work a few hours early to watch his first “real” soccer game (previously, his teacher has just been having the kids practice drills; this would be the first 3-on-3 game with goalies), and when I got to his school, he hadn’t yet changed into his soccer cleats. I sat down with him in the hallway to help him put on his gear, then watched as he tied his cleats.

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It took me forever to learn to tie my shoes. I think I was in third grade before I mastered it. Cute Husband says he tied his shoes for the first time when he was in kindergarten; his parents gave him the Darth Vader action figure carrying case as a reward.

I’m inordinately proud of The Boy for learning this skill. The shoe laces still need to be fairly long, so I’ll still need to help him with the dress shoes he wears on Mondays, and he still needs to practice, but Cute Husband and I are both so very proud of him.