A few years back, my sister introduced me to this game called “Double Shutter”. It’s a simple game, where you have two rows of tiles with numbers on them. 1-9 in the front row and 9-1 in the back row. You roll two dice, and and add up the dots to shut the tiles of your choice. So if you roll a 4 and 2, you can either flip down the 6 in the front row, the 4 and 2 in the front row, or any other combination of numbers that add up to 6.

After playing at it my sisters house, I liked it so much, I bought one for myself. Max has always taken a liking to the game. Not sure if it’s the bright red tin that the game come in, or what it is. But since we got it, he always wants to play around with it. Obviously, when he was 18 months old, he just liked flipping the tiles and didn’t understand the game. Over the weekend, it was raining on Saturday, and Max was a little bored. After his shower, he asked if we could play “that dice game”. So I got the game out. All the other times, he would just roll the dice and flip the tiles around. But this time things were different!

Max rolled the dice, and I asked him to tell me the value on each of the die. I was pleasantly surprised that he could identify the number of dots pretty much by site. He would look down and see 3 dots and know it was 3 dots, without counting them. That was a nice surprise in itself. At first, I kept the game simple, and if he rolled a 3 and 1, I would have him flip down 3 and 1. As we played a few rounds, if the 3 and 1 were already flipped down, I would say to Max, 3 and 1 make 4, so flip down the 4. He caught on really quickly and started adding the dice up. If the numbers were small, 2 and 1, 2 and 2, 3 and 1 etc, he could do the math in his head. When we rolled bigger numbers (4 and 6, 5 and 5 etc), he would count the dots.

We never really had any “formal” adding lessons. He’s played a few games on the iPad and read a few books that have examples of adding things up, but it’s not something we really focussed on. So I was really surprised and impressed at how quickly he picked up the concept.

Rachel walked into the room when Max and I were playing and heard him say “3 and 1 equals 4”. She looked equally as shocked as me. I’ll have to keep this in mind as Max learns more and more complex things. Find fun and creative ways to teach him, without him really knowing he is learning. As we rolled the dice, all he cared about was playing one more game. He was having fun, and I was having fun watching him and I could see all the pieces of the puzzle come together, as he grasped more and more of the concept of the game. One of countless times when Max has made me one proud Papa.

# Chopped Liver

Over the weekend, Max got to spend a lot of time with his cousins and his Uncle Jonathan and Uncle Mike. Max loves getting thrown through the air and splashing down into the pool. He would laugh and squeal with delight when I would toss him skyward. Well then Uncle Jonathan and Uncle Mike started throwing him, and they took it to a new level. Since they are both taller and outweigh me by a good 80-100pounds, they can thrown Max a lot higher and a lot further than I can. So now when I throw Max, it’s lame in comparison. I know it’s not a big deal, but it still stung a little when Max swam away from me and said he wanted Uncle Mike to throw him, instead of me. Guess I better start hitting the weights and improve my 4 year old tossing skills.

On a positive note, Max also got to spend the last week with his two cousins from North Carolina. Andrew 10, and Ashley 8 proved to be good playmates for Max. Even though they are both older, they all seemed to get along quite well. Max had a few frustrating moments when he couldn’t quite keep up with them, but overall he held his own. They bowled, played mini golf, went to the movies, swam for hours, played the Wii and had a blast together. Max was really running on fumes the last two days, so probably best that they went back to NC. Things will return to a more normal and quiet routine this week, when it will just be him and Nana during the day.

The crew will be back together in about 3 weeks for more summertime fun.

# Training to get faster

I started the couch to 5k program last spring, and was very pleased that I followed through and completed it. I was amazed that I actually enjoyed running, and I kept at it all summer, into the fall and through the winter. Thanks to technology, I was able to go back and look at my Nike+ and RunKeeper data from when I started and to where I was now. While my overall pace has improved, I’m still not able to run as fast as I would like.

When I ran my first 5k last fall, I was amazed when I saw a number of people finished the 3 mile race in under 20 minutes. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I can run a 6 minute mile for 3 miles, but I would like to think that the goal of a sub 25 minute 5k is doable. My goal when I ran my first 5k was to finish under 30 minutes. I reached that goal when I crossed the finish line in 29:14.

So I started doing some research and I discovered that in order to get faster, I needed to take a 3 pronged approach. I can’t just go out and run 5k distance each time I go for a run. I had been doing just that for about 3 months and I felt like I hit a wall. I seemed to be in a runners slump. I was routinely running the first mile in 9 minutes, then slowing down to 9:45 for my 2nd mile and 10 minutes + for my 3rd mile. So I was always finishing my 3.11 miles in about 31 minutes.

The three pronged approach is 1 weekly long run, 2-3 easy runs each week, and 1-2 speed work days. The long run is my biggest challenge. Last summer, for whatever reason, I was able to go out and run at 8:30 at night when Max would go to bed. This year, I am drained by the end of the day. When Max goes to bed, all I want to do is sit on the couch and relax. I can’t get myself to run ater he’s asleep. The easy runs and speed work have been a bit easier. This summer has been brutally hot, so I’ve started using the treadmill at work. I can do an easy 3 mile run before I leave for the day. And the speed work I’ve been doing seems like the treadmill is the perfect place to do it. I can dial in the speed exactly how I want it.

I’m entering my 2nd week of this three pronged approach. I missed my long run this week. I planned on doing it last night, but I got a bad headache, I had been swimming with the kids and had a tiring day and couldn’t get my ass out the door. But I did do my 2 easy runs and 2 days of speed work.

The speed work is tough. I started out doing 6 X 400 meter with 400 meter recovery jog. By the 4th and 5th interval I started taking a 30 second walk break before starting my recovery jog. When I finished, I was drenched in sweat and my legs felt like Jello. I hope as I continue to do these, they get easier so I can up the number to 8 X 400 or 10 X 400, and eventually start doing 800 meter repeats.

I’m pretty sure it will either make me faster, or kill me. If I don’t post for a while, Im dead :-).