Sunday, July 22, 2012


We are extremely excited about the 2012 London Summer Olympics at the Johnson house.  Last month both Lucy and Paige were captivated by the Olympic trials (specifically the gymnastics) and we have been counting down to July 27th ever since. 

At the cost of my PBS Frontlines and multiple iCarly episodes, appropriate space has been made to DVR the Olympics.  This week's Sports Illustrated Olympic preview arrived in the mail.  It has become daily reading in our house ever since.
Knowing we will be keeping an eye on the TV more than normal I have started to research some crafts that we can work on while watching the games.  More research is needed.  So far I have come up with taking a cup, wrapping it with tin foal, and stuffing it with yellow and orange paper to make a torch.  The other project is painting paper plates the various colors of the Olympic rings and cutting them into circles.

I found this article, 6 Olympic Sports Your Kids Can Try.  The article discusses archery, water polo, fencing, and water polo.  It might be a couple years before our girls give any of those sports a try, but they have put in a couple years of preparation for a relatively new Olympic sport, the trampoline.  

While many people love the Olympics, there may be some genetics ties to the girls interest in the Olympics.  Lib and I both grow up enjoying the games.  A couple memories include my crush on Shannon Miller from the 1992 and 1996 games.  Amazing that those games were 16 and 20 years ago!  I also remember watching some of the games 8 years ago while we were on our honeymoon.
We hope you enjoy the games as much as we do.  Here is a link to the schedule of events.  Go team USA and with a Mary Lou Retton in our house we will be sure not to miss a minute!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two ways to tell it

HBO has a new series, The Newsroom, that despite not having HBO (Watched the first show on a Blockbuster promo and the second in a hotel.  Still haven't watched the third episode) I am quickly falling in love with.  Aaron Sorkin, writer of The West Wing and A Few Good Men, among other messages is trying to tell us that there aren't two sides to every story.  He claims, and I agree, that some stories have three sides or five or one.  He is calling upon the news to report the truth and call out idiots, not just report on the idiots trying to grab headlines.  For example if a democrat makes a big deal and claims the world is flat, Sorkin says the news should say he is wrong not post a headline (as they often do) "Democrats and Republicans can't agree on shape of world."

My last post was the week before I ran Grandma's Marathon.  Tonight's post, despite getting off topic as early as the first paragraph, is a recap of my race.  The Newsroom intro was used for three reasons.  First, to profess my love for the show.  Second, to recommend you check it out.  Third, to say despite Sorkins message my marathon story can be told in two ways.

The positive version (the one I am hoping to remember in the long run):
Grandma's Marathon, run on June 16th, was my second marathon. My first was the Twin Cities Marathon last fall. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in three hours and fifty one minutes. I ran Grandma's in 3:42. Finishing any marathon is an accomplishment, so I am first proud to have now completed two. I am also proud to have improved my time by nine minutes.

The other true more painful version:
My goal was to run Grandma's Marathon in 3:30.  A 3:30 marathon is running a 8 minute per mile pace for the whole race.  Through 15 miles all my splits were between 7:29 and 7:55.  I was flying along and feeling good.  I crossed the half marathon mark four minutes ahead of pace (one hour forty one minutes versus goal pace of 1:45).  Miles 16-19 were 8 to 8:20, slower but I will still ahead of pace.

At mile 20 I hit the wall.  Hitting the wall as hard as I did was something I had never experienced before.  My tank went to empty and all I wanted to do was lay down.  6.2 miles seemed like an impossible distance to travel to cross the finish line.  It took me 20 minutes to complete my next two miles.  The things that go through your mind are amazing.  From hating yourself for ever trying to do a marathon, to swearing off running for the rest of your life, to moment of determination where you talk yourself into just picking up the pace until the next water station.

As I mentioned in the first version I finished in 3:42.  The second half of my marathon took two hours, 18 minutes longer then my first half.  Not ideal splits.

Duluth got cold during the race, so in addition to a slow last six miles my left nipple was bleeding.  From all the exertion I just laid around and napped the rest of the day.  Part of my training for future races will be to learn how to better manage my stomach post race!?!?!  Here is a link to pics of the struggle:

Lessons learned from the race:
1) Each race in an opportunity.  With all the preparation and time (for you and your family) that goes into running a marathon it is easy for race day to be a forgone conclusion.  It is a huge day, of course, but I found myself thinking about race day so much that when it was time to race I felt I had been through it before.  No matter how much I run in the future, I will never take a race day for granted.

2) Begin with the end in mind.  I have read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but this second habit didn't sink in to my running habits until after Grandma's.  In an attempt to run a 3:30 I became very obsessed with my 10k split and my 13.1 mile split.  I ran a hard first half to bank some extra minutes for the second half, but I never ran with mile 26 in mind.  Knowing how hard those last miles are I would love to trade in all those 7:30 and 7:45 minute miles for 8 minute miles and feel stronger at the end

This recap certainly wasn't very "news worthy" but I wanted to tie a bow around the marathon post.  I will be going for the 3:30 again at the Twins Cities Marathon.  I have learned from this experience and I hope the TC Marathon story has only one side...a sub-3:30 time!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Clock…we got ourselves a game!

Over the last couple years I have fallen in love with running.  I hope to do many more blogs about running and what it means to me.  Today I want to post about a race I am completing this weekend, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN.

Grandma’s Marathon will be my second marathon.  I have been training all spring and feel ready.  Despite my optimism for the race there is always nervous energy the week before the race.  My current challenge is that to deal with the nerves I would like to run.  Unfortunately, I can't run too much because I am “tapering” or limiting my miles before the race.

I have turned to the elliptical, some yoga, and inspirational speeches on YouTube to burn off nervous energy and get myself prepared.
Being shorter than six feet tall and weighing less than 180 pounds I have found myself the underdog in most of my athletic endeavors.  Standing with thousands of other runners at the start line of a marathon is no exception.  There are numerous runners who are taller, leaner, and simply look faster.  What I love about running is that it is an individual sports, with each running working to acheive their own goals.  I am not competing against the other runners, but only against the clock.  If I finish dead last but run my race and achieve my goals I am happy.

With that said, the clock is a very tough competitor.  It is very consistent, never misses a beat, and is always there.  When I stop to drink water it keeps going.  When I run a slower mile it just keeps ticking.  I have been training to beat you clock.  Below is my favorite of my motivational speeches and it goes out to you...clock.  We are all coming for you on Saturday in Duluth.  We know you will be there doing your thing, but we are ready!

Good luck to anyone running this weekend, in Duluth or anywhere.  If you pass me I hope I have the energy to give you a smile and good luck.  Hope to see you all at the finish!

Words to my motivational speech

Here’s the thing that makes life so interesting,
The theory of evolution claims, “Only the strong shall survive.”
Maybe so… Maybe so.
But the theory of competition says, “Just because they are the strong it doesn’t mean they can’t get their asses kicked!”

That’s right!
See for every long shot, come from behind, underdog will tell you is this,

The other guy may in fact be the favorite. 
The odds may be stacked against you. Fair enough.

But what the odds don’t know is this isn’t a math test.
This is a completely different kind of test.

One where passion has a funny way of trumping logic.
So before you step up to the starting line, before the whistle blows, and the clock starts ticking

Just remember out here the results don’t always add up.
No matter what the stats may say, and the experts may think, and the commentators may have predicted

When the race is on, all bets are off.
Don’t be surprised of someone decides to flip the script and take a pass on yelling uncle
And then suddenly as the old saying goes, “We got ourselves a game!”

Monday, May 21, 2012

When I was your age...

As kids we all heard our parents use the phrase, "When I was your age..."

Sometimes the phrase was used to tell a story of how much the times have changed.  Other times it was used to make use appreciate something we had that our parents didn't when they were kids.  Most often (at least in the house I grew up in) it was used to add humor to a childhood story. 

The most humorous of the "When I was your age" stories had to do with my dad's walk to school.  I am confident that many other children have heard the tale of their parents' 15 mile uphill  both ways stroll to school.  When I saw the below picture on-line I laughed out loud and immediately thought of my dad.  He is an above average story teller, and his version often included fighting off wolves (not pictured), which meant him and his brother had to walk back to back for safety.
In addition to wanting to post this funny picture of my dad's walk to school, I wanted to discuss that I am now experiencing "When I was your age" moments with Lucy and Paige.  The first and most common is when Lucy or Paige touch the screen on our home computer and can't figure out why the cursor (that is what we called the "mouse" thing we used in my day) doesn't respond.  They are both accustom to tablets or smart phones that have touch screens that they don't realize devices haven't always been that way.

A second example of this occurred when Lucy and I did a father daughter date to The Lorax.  The movie was in 3D.  I told Lucy that it was the first time I has watched a 3D movie.  She just gave me a strange look.  Her look said that she is only four and I am old so how could I have not watched a 3D movie yet with all those extra days I have lived.

I didn't even get into the fact that we were taking pictures of each other with our 3D glasses on with a portable phone!?!? 

"When I was growing up phones were connected to the wall at home and they all had curly cords attached."

The third example of "When I was your age" that took place over the last couple weeks was when we went to Menard's to get some sand for the sandbox.  Menard's now offers pink, blue, purple, and white sand.

On the drive home from Menard's I said, "Lucy and Paige, when I was your age we didn't have different colors of sand to choose from.  We just had sand."

As you can see from the picture below they were unimpressed with my sand history lesson and happily went with pink.
I also remember that many of the stories about "When I was your age" drew upon memories of a simpler time.  As I am now the person using this quote, I have two thoughts about growing up in a different generation.  First, this generation like many before it will find a way to navigate all the new and different products and ideas.  Secondly, the girls will have many more complex situations in their future that will leave me yearning for what I remember as a simpler time.  Until those days roll around I am going to enjoy the 3D movie dates and the pink sand!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stay-at-home dad article

I came across this article today and I thought it captured my feelings about being a stay-at-home dad well.  My favorite quote of the article is, "The hours are the pits and the pay stinks, but it's hard to complain about getting to spend time with your kids every day."

The title of the article"Don't Call me Mr. Mom" isn't really discussed in the article.  From my own experience, there are plenty of people that call me Mr. Mom after I tell them I am a stay-at-home dad.  While I understand what they are saying and understand how the author of this article may take offense to being called that, it doesn't bother me much. 

If anything it just strikes me as inaccurate versus insulting.  People rarely mean harm with the comment (at least from my dense perspective).  It is inaccurate because they have a mom, a great mom.  Just because she has a full time job it doesn't mean that she is any less of a mom or needs to have some "Mr" do the "mom" work in the house. 

As for me, the job title of simply Dad is more than enough.

Friday, May 11, 2012

If you give them an inch

Everyone has heard the expression, "If you give them an inch, they will take a mile."  All parents have experienced this with their children.  You decide that they can have a cookie and they immediately ask for a second or third treat.  The examples of this are endless.

Recently at a park Paige became very interested in the drinking fountain.  For those of you reading this from Wisconsin, a drinking fountain is what we know as a bubbler!?!?  Paige took multiple drinks and enjoyed turning the handle to watch the water go on and off.

At first I didn't understand what she was doing, but since that day at the park Paige has been trying to climb up onto the bathroom counter for a drink.  After she brushes her teeth she turns the water on, climbs up, and sticks her head under the faucet.  Eventually the light bulb went on and I realized she was trying to make the sink her drinking fountain. 

If you give them an inch (in this example let them take a drink from a water fountain at the park),they will take a mile (assume all the sinks in the house are now their personal water fountains)!?!?!?!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Do Your Best

With the warmer weather of spring we have been spending more time outside. I love the fresh air and the healthy activity level that outside play provides. All at a great price!

In the winter typically it takes 30 plus minutes to get snow pants, boots, hats, gloves, etc on and if it is a cold enough day we are ready to come back inside after about 10-20 minutes of fresh air. In the spring and summer, the neighborhood is filled with kids running around and the hours of play seems to fly by.

This spring the girls received softball helmets and a set of bases from the Easter Bunny. "The bunny" got the wrong size helmets, so the helmets haven't made their debut yet. There are two challenges here. First, finding a place that had a good selection of sizes of pink helmets. Second, how to explain to an inquisitive 4 year old how you set up an exchange with the Easter Bunny!?!?!

This new equipment has led to frequent tee ball games in the back yard. They both love to hit the ball and run the bases. I love to pitch to Lucy, set the tee up for Paige, and chase them around the bases.

Growing up sports was a big part of my life. A lot of great childhood memories were created playing football at recess, shooting hoops with my brother, or playing baseball with extended family on vacations. I am excited to see the girls smiling and laughing while enjoying sports.

As I grew older and played high school sports I developed a real passion and intensity for the sports I played. I wanted to be the best player I could and when competing I wanted to win. I learned many life lessons from the hard work and ups and downs that come with sports.

Knowing that passion and intensity for sports exists in me I have often thought about how that may affect how I coach the girls. It is very important to me that we focus on the fun and doing your best with sports versus the win at all cost mentality that is often seen on TV. Frankly, if you watch enough ESPN the "refuse to lose" attitude is often praised in our sports heroes.

To step back for a moment, the girls are two and four so we aren't at a major crossroads regarding playing for fun or playing to win. It should be 100% focused on fun at their age. At any age it should be fun and even when in competitive situations the focus should be on doing your best versus winning. This concept was confirmed for me when I stumbled across a speech by John Wooden.

When the Internet dries up of interesting things to do I often jump out to Ted (Tech, Entertainment, and Design) is a series of global conferences where, simply put, people present ideas. On this site their are lots of videos of smart people talking about a wide variety of unique topics. This is where I found a speech given by John Wooden on true success. It is a great speech that contains a lot of information regarding life and sports.

John Wooden was a legendary college basketball coach from UCLA. He won multiple national championships and coached the best of the best in college basketball, including Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. In the speech he says, "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

When you translate that to a four year old (or a high school kid probably) what it means is do your best! If that is a good enough measure of success for John Wooden, it certainly will be for me as the girls grow and pursue various things.

While we are currently at this stage of sports (Paige hitting video), doing your best will be our top sports motto regardless of what society says about winning and regardless of how well your helmet fits!?!?!?!

Post Script: Another great quote from Wooden in the video, “You can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored.”