Dec 6, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: Marathon...

Have I talked yet about how I ran a marathon? I know I mentioned I was going to, but I don't think I've completed a post about it.

Here's the nitty gritty: I did it. I ran a friggin' marathon before the age of 40. With 11 months to spare, as a matter of fact.  It was a beautiful autumn day, and I was well-trained, and I was ready, and I did it.

Plenty of things went right. Most of the things went right, in fact. A few things went wrong, but in the weeks before my race, someone in my training group said something about running the race you are given, meaning no matter what goes right or wrong, being present and running that race, doing what you can with how that day goes, good or bad.

It was good advice, and it really helped me--when I showed up with a cold, and then my heart rate strap went all wonky and my race plan went out the window--to focus on what I was able to do, what my options were, and to choose wisely.

Beyond that, there is both so much and so little to say about it. I mean, I was out there for just shy of 6 hours, and since I don't run with headphones that is a lot of time to think about a lot of things. SO MANY THINGS. This I was prepared for.

The thing I was not prepared for was the recovery time. I'm not talking about the physical recovery time--that was par for the course, if by "par for the course" you mean I had a hard time walking for a couple days and then felt fine for the remainder of the mandatory 2-week rest.

No, the part I'm talking about is where you have two weeks of work travel starting the day after the marathon, plus a gig with a chick band in between the two weeks of work travel, all of which you think will be a good break in routine, and it mostly is, except for the part where all of it is such a good break in routine that you then return to the hot mess that is your life, which is now two weeks behind, and you just ran your first marathon and even with the best training, running 26.2 miles just plain takes a lot out of you, and it takes a few weeks to sort things out bit by bit, and by 6 weeks out you're finally pretty sure you are going to be OK, and won't have to see the doc about adjusting your meds, and will even want to run more than 30 minutes at a time. Eventually.

That's the part I wasn't prepared for.

But I imagine it's that way for anyone's first anything, you know? There are SO MANY ways things could go, SO MANY ways to be thrown into disequilibrium, that it is impossible to be prepared until after that first time, because then you have some idea how you will respond to it.

Back in college my educational methods instructor (Dr Betz Frederick) said that people learn best in a constant state of disequilibrium--which she also demonstrated to us with a semester's worth of disequilibrium. I'm not sure I agree with the constant part--if your disequilibrium is too constant that's called chaos and there is science about how too much chaos es no bueno. I assume Dr Frederick was referring to a constant state of disequilibrium for a definite and not-excessive period of time. I also suspect that maybe Dr Frederick had a teensy bit of madness to her method.

That said, I do think it is valuable to get thrown into disequilibrium occasionally, either by choice or by circumstance (personally I prefer by choice), because you really do come out of it with new viewpoints, not the least of which is "Holy smokes, what WAS that?!?"

When I was having babies, they compared labor and delivery to running a marathon. And when I was training for a marathon, they compared it to having a baby. And it's funny, when I was having babies the consolation was that it was one hard day and then you got a baby, and with the marathon the consolation was that it was one hard day and then you got a NAP. So I guess my timing has been serendipitous all around, because at this point in life what I really wanted was the NAP.

I do plan to run another marathon, but most likely not until 2018. There's so much else I want to do, and when I do the next one, as in all things, I want to devote the proper time to it so I can be as awesome as possible. But in this next year--I have a half-marathon goal or two I'd like to chase.  Heh heh--chase.

In conclusion, it's worth putting in the work to do hard things, and in a life of literal and figurative marathons, a well-earned nap relieves many stresses.

Go and do likewise...

Nov 17, 2016

The Littler One's Foot-Freezing Adventure...

The Littler One knows I like to tell stories, so he demanded that I gave me permission to write about his adventure today.

It started with a wart on his foot this summer. We were at the doctor's for his checkup anyway, so we asked her about it. She said we could bring him in to have it frozen off, but we might want to try over-the-counter options first. I had used similar things in the past for a plantar wart, so I thought "Great! Piece of cake!"

It was a little trickier than eating cake. My children are very fortunate to be healthy as horses overall, so they balk at things like going to the doctor or doing any sort of treatment beyond fever medicine.** And the wart medicine stung, so the Littler One was not at all into that which, depending on the day, could be really prohibitive as far as getting the medicine onto his foot-wart. So it was kind of an off-and-on sort of deal, which isn't the best protocol for wart medicine to begin with. And on top of that, the wart grew. So this week we headed back to escalate the concern and have the little bugger frozen off.

I've had moles cut out, but I've never had anything frozen off. This may seem like a disadvantage, but I decided to stay deliberately ignorant, rather than do some research and risk freaking him out ahead of time (completely the right decision).

Well, here's what is involved. Basically they are creating a tiny, local bit of frostbite to kill the wart virus. The technician sprays the wart with liquid nitrogen for a few seconds to freeze it, then waits a minute or so. Then he sprays it again and waits again. Then he sprays it a third time and tells you to come back in 2 weeks for more of the same. He described the sensation as "cold and sharp."

The Littler One was extremely bummed out about the "sharp" portion of the sensation. He did not want to proceed after the first few seconds, but I persuaded him by holding him in a giant, nurturing, and firm bear hug on my lap. The tech and I also pulled out all the distraction and bribery techniques, which were enough to get us all through the rest of the procedure.

The Littler One is my kid with the strongest feelings, so he was acutely aware of how his foot was doing at any moment. It bothered him for a while, but once we got to gymnastics he was able to join his friends with no trouble.

I told him I was proud of him for doing a hard thing, and taking care of himself so the wart would go away and stop aggravating him. I went easy on him when he snuck ice cream from the freezer, and let him play with all 4 colors of the Floam I'd been hiding for occasions like these, and by the end of the evening we were back to driving each other absolutely bonkers... <3

**ASIDE on the medicine: By the way, the kids say medicine tastes really good these days. I don't know what to think about this--back in my day our medicine was sort-of-flavored but still tasted gross. So guess what? We took the gross medicine because we didn't know any differently. Now? They balk at the slightest hints of bitterness. Tiny E doesn't want to take Benadryl because it's GWOSS. I'm all "Sweetie, your face is all swelled up; this will help you get better," and she's all "Nope, GWOSS." I feel like maybe she doesn't understand the function and purpose of medicine. Thanks for nothing, artificial sweeteners! End Rant**

Nov 11, 2016

Poppin' Fresh...

So, the Pillsbury pop cans.

I remember growing up, my parents would peel the paper and then whack the can on the counter to make it pop. When I was old enough to open them, I found that the pop startled me a little, so every time I opened them I would get a little freaked out in anticipation. Whack! Pop? Nope. Whack-POP-Aaah! There it is.

Somewhere along the way I started getting the self-popping ones. I don't actually know if they changed the packaging in some way, or if they were always supposed to be self-popping, but either way, my anxiety was relieved ever-so-slightly. I'd still wince a little when peeling back the paper, but it was tempered by knowing that the deed would be done by the time the paper was off.

Except, of course, when the paper was peeled and the can was still shut. UGH. Then, the instructions said, you were supposed to stick a spoon at the seam to make it pop. Like, put your hands on the spoon and put them right in the vicinity of that sneak-popping can and make it sneak-pop. On purpose. Madness!!

It was worth it, though. Worth it for licking the icing off the little lid while you waited for the rolls to bake, and worth it to smell the squishy dough as you rolled it into the little crescent shapes.

Now I'm older. The baton continues to pass among the generations, and my kids are learning about the pop cans. I tell them "My parents made these rolls for me, and now I'm making them for you," and I let them lick the icing container, and even call dibs on the middle cinnamon roll. Sometimes.

And it dawns on me that the rolls don't self-pop anymore. I peel the paper, and there are printed instructions to press a spoon at the seam until the can pops open. Have they always been there?

Regardless, I'm not putting my dainty fingers near that sneak-pop seam, spoon or not. My counter is sturdy and sufficient for making the can pop, so I give it a whack or two.

But I don't wince anymore, and the pop no longer startles me. I don't know what happened; why I am no longer anxious about the sneak-pop. Maybe Pillsbury figured out the psychology to the least-startling method for opening their pop cans. Or maybe some wrinkle in my own journey has smoothed, and my zebra-self now understands that the sneak-pop is not a threat. Who knows.

All I know is that cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs are a winning breakfast at our house, and that I can eat a pop can cinnamon roll in 2 large bites.

You're welcome...

Nov 6, 2016

A Little Extra Autumn Slumber...

I had a moment today, driving to church and noticing the morning. We had rain overnight, and the sun was peeking its way through the clearing clouds, lighting up the leaves (or at least what is left of them).  I was struck by the beauty of it, remembering how green and full the trees and bushes were just several weeks ago, and knowing how stark and bare and brown they soon will be.

I love the seasons for precisely this. These moments where I'm awake and alert to the beauty, and I'm thankful to be amidst it...but having experienced enough seasons to know that every moment won't be that way; that even perhaps very few moments will feel that way. But also knowing that they will be there again, eventually.

Then driving into church (which meets in a school) I saw folks parking the equipment trailer, carrying things inside to set up for the morning, working together. I was struck by the beauty of being part of a group. A year now we've been at this church. We are putting down roots and feeling stronger and stable among them. I couldn't believe my good fortune to be in this place, in this season, and with these friends.

I thought to myself "What on earth has come over me? Are Jesus and I having a moment here?"

I mean, maybe we were having a moment, Jesus and I. I try to notice small gifts like these, to practice gratitude and whatnot. But the thought that crossed my mind shortly thereafter was remembering that this morning was my favorite of the year, and what that meant: it was the morning that Daylight Saving Time goes dormant until the spring and we set the clocks back an hour, recovering the time we lost in the spring. This year I had the incredible fortune of children who slept in and I actually got my extra hour of sleep. A little sleep goes a long way toward a positive mood and outlook.

I feel like I should have some sort of deeper truth behind this, something more profound than "Hey everyone, I got some extra sleep and appreciated the beauty of nature this morning. You should try that sometime." But I decided I don't really care all that much whether it was a Word from the Lord or the extra zzz's; after all, reality was probably some combination of all factors involved. And the truth is, there are gifted people out there who find wonderful and unique ways to express things, but in the end I think we are all humans experiencing what humans have experienced for years now. Not much is new under that beautiful autumn sun.

But really, you should've seen those leaves...

Oct 1, 2016

Two Weeks Out In the Rain...

Good morning, everyone.

I'm poking my head up above the beautiful mess for a moment to share some perspectives I found this morning. As a result, I present to you a list of pros and cons of today's long run, versus the predicted conditions of my race in two weeks:

--Today it was raining. There were moments of pleasant drizzle, but they were interspersed between heavy showers and cats & dogs.  It is not expected to be raining in two weeks.

--At about two miles in I gave myself permission to say what I was really thinking: "This is the worst run EVER." In hindsight I'm not sure I would say it's my worst run EVER, but I really don't get along with the rain when I'm running, so it's up there. So running a bajillionty hours in two weeks will not be my worst run EVER.

--It rained through the night, so the gutters were pretty well filled by this morning. So I was doing a little traffic-dodging, as well as sloshing through some substantial puddles. There will be traffic control at my race in two weeks, so I will (likely) not have to run in sloshy gutters.

--I pulled my hood up over my hat, which helped delay some of the soaking, but it turns out also made for a lot of head noise from the swishing of my windbreaker. Toward the end when things actually did let up a little, I pulled my hood down and found the outside to be much more peaceful than I had been experiencing it, simply because the swishing was out of my ear. My race in two weeks will most likely be the opposite of peaceful, but there will be no swishing in my ear.

--Today was rainy and miserable, but there was no lightning to compromise safety, so I got out and did it. If I can go out on purpose and do what I know is going to be a miserable run, I will have no trouble running in nicer conditions for a bajillionty hours in two weeks.

--Today there were certain, um, biological truths and realities that really are no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but add an extra layer of planning and thinking, and a teensy shot of ibuprofen. These realities will not be true of me in two weeks. My race, and all of life, will be rainbows and unicorns in two weeks.

--Back in that moment where I admitted what I was really thinking about this run, I double-checked my minimum and maximum goal times, and I'd already met the minimum. So by the time I turned around and made it home I hadn't hit the max, but had far exceeded the min. I got what I needed and I'm ready to run a bajillionty hours in two weeks.

In conclusion, I don't recommend running in the rain when it's below 80 degrees. That's not to say you should never do it, but you need to be aware of the possibility that its only gift to you might be the stark contrast with all that is good in your life and the wish to hollow out a large tree and hunker down like the rabbits and squirrels.

Which of course is its own special gift, but it's not the sort of thing you wish on people, is what I'm saying...

Jul 14, 2016

Calling All Benevolent Subversives...

Like probably mostly everyone else, I've been mulling over the recent violent events in the US. I noticed folks tend to lighten the language when talking about it; see how I didn't say "shootings?" At first I was annoyed by this because it feels like folks are trying to dance around the topic, or be more PC, or something.

But the more I think about it, I've decided I like the more generalized terms because the core issue isn't the shootings. 15 years ago the weapon was airplanes flown into buildings, and every time something violent happens, it's less about that specific vehicle, and more about what is behind it.

I could go super-general and pin down one or two things that are behind all acts of violence, but I wonder if that's simplifying it too much. I've come to believe we all have this part of our hearts that, for many of us in civilized society, is easy to put aside because we have been among polite company. We generally have shelter, food, some place to belong, and a sense of overall safety, where all we really worry about is the everyday sorts of risks, like car crashes, super-bacteria, and all the freak-accidents that could happen in any given moment.

What I mean is, if it all hit the fan and we were all immediately forced into a survival situation like Falling Skies or some such post-apocalyptic scenario, the rules would change, and so would our responses. I'm not so sure we are all as "civilized" as we like to portray, and when violence is committed, I think one trigger is that someone's fundamental safety is so threatened, that their fear takes over and rational thought goes out the window.

There's lots more to say about that, but I would be rambling.

So THEN, we have the responses of the masses; the 'civilized' ones who are rightfully shocked and horrified at the hurt and harm done. There are calls on all the sides. "You MUST do this and that, or you are part of the problem." "You matter/we matter/they matter." "They matter more," "No, we ALL matter more," and OPINIONS flying around all overhead like slinging arrows, all with a nugget of truth but little space to unpack and sit with them, and roll the nuggets in our hands, and let them sink in because "MY NUGGET IS BETTER THAN YOUR NUGGET!!"

I think that's the more socially-acceptable response; certainly it's better than killing people. But I think it's rooted in the same fear, and the same shock at the fundamental safety feeling threatened. There are things to be learned, but yelling them isn't conducive to learning them (they proved that in schools a while back).  I'm not talking about protests--there's a time and place, and I wonder if right now a few solid (and peaceful, please) protests wouldn't help a little. What I mean is, as I'm exploring different stories and points of view, yelling that I'm doing it wrong makes me cower and take cover, rather than reach out and learn something.

So you guys, I'm sticking my head up to tell you my little steps. The things I'm doing.

I'm a praying person, so I'm praying a lot. Praying for those hurt and harmed, and for the families who have to find a new life without loved ones. For those who feel so fundamentally threatened that they feel no other choice than to hurt and harm. For leaders trying to "fix" things, and little idea how to go about it. For those looking on and feeling powerless. For all the sinners and saints in need of a savior (of which I am one).

I'm smiling at people. Like, pretty much everyone. Like a dumb fool. I'm making a little extra effort to really see people around me, and to confront the little prejudiced fears inside myself that say "we're different so we probably wouldn't be friends" (which is nonsense--I've seen it in my very own life for years). If a smile seems like too much, I nod and look into their eyes (or slightly above their head--I have eye contact challenges) as we cross paths.

I'm taking notice. I'm looking and listening where I can, to the honest and brutal and beautiful stories of those around me. Everyone has stories to tell; a funny moment, a struggle, a tie to the events at hand.

I'm talking to my kids about it. We talk about what makes people hurt others. We talk about how to get to know people who are different from us. How we can be kind, even when we are disagreeing or even angry with someone (and of course raising them to be competent individuals who are NOT sociopaths).

You guys, little teeny steps. Like someone drops a pencil in my reach so I grab it for them. A soda bottle is rolling across the ground, so I pick it up to throw away later. A person alongside me on the running path wants to hear about my kids and talk about her grandchildren, so I run and talk with her for a mile (and I don't even have to make eye contact). Just little kindnesses. Nothing even too far outside my comfort zone. Little ways to be kind.

I think sometimes we think we need to rise up and do the powerful thing, and I believe some people are here to do just that. But I think too, maybe sometimes the most powerful thing any one person can have is the quiet strength to do whatever their thing is. To use whatever their powers are for good.

That's all I have to say today. Carry on, friends...

Jun 18, 2016

I Run With My Heart...

Through the years when folks have talked about "witnessing" at church, one of the big questions is how to talk about Jesus without making it awkward and/or sales-y. And one of the more preferable (to me) answers is that you get excited talking about things and people you love, so treat talking about Jesus in a similar way.**

I like that approach for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not going to try to get you to be besties with my besties, or sell you all the things I love, but I might tell you why I'm so excited about them. No pressure; but we're getting to know each other, so you might as well know what I'm into. And maybe you'll want to experience them too, or maybe not, but it's not really my job to force you into anything. That would be weird.

And I do love Jesus. Like, a lot. I have some stories to tell about him, which I'll share in good time. And if you want to talk about him with me, please let me know, because I can talk your ear off about him til the cows come home.

But instead of Jesus, today I'm going to talk about running...

The reason I'm so excited about running these days is that I started a new marathon training program. That's right, it's time for me to check my "full marathon before age 40" goal off the bucket list (with a year to spare).

I'm excited because I've done two half marathons now, with decent results. I know I'm capable of training to go the full distance, and with proper care and feeding, my butt-issues have been under good control.

But I've been nervous because I remember how I felt at the end of my first half, and I couldn't imagine how I'd feel running two entire half marathons in a row. Also, I've hit a bit of a rut this spring. Last fall I met some new friends to run with on the weekends and my mile pace started getting quicker, but after the long, dark winter it felt like a slog to just maintain what I'd already been doing.

I decided I needed a change. I looked up plans online and found an 8-week half-marathon plan just in time for the race I wanted to run in Maine. I was excited to move up from a beginner to intermediate category and add some speed work. I figured that would be the ticket to bump me out of my rut. And I did well for the first half, but then my SI joint started giving me fits. And not little fits, either; more like a single, giant tantrum. It was rough.

So I had to rein in the training and deal with my SI instead. It took a few weeks, but soon I was on the mend. I had to adjust expectations on my race and go more conservatively than I'd originally planned. Apparently I'm not ready for "balls-to-the-wall" training or racing. But race day came and went, and I completed the race none the worse for wear...and 5 minutes faster than a year ago!

Well in the midst of all this stuff, I listened to a podcast episode of Another Mother Runner focusing on heart rate training. I've always poo-poo'd HRT as too technical for my tastes, but by the end of the episode I had done a 180 and decided that I'm in the right time and place to train for my marathon by heart rate.

Now before this I hadn't looked into heart rate training much, and I still haven't. The big reason I decided to actually drop money on a training plan is that it comes with a coach, whom I spoke with on the phone before committing.

That's right, I made an actual phone call to a complete stranger for this nonsense. I told you I was excited.

The reason the phone call is significant is that while some folks might try to motivate you to go HARDER and try for the more INTENSE paths, she actually talked me down to the less difficult choice. I might as well tell you that my secret desire (haven't decided whether it's a feasible goal yet) is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so my original aim was to do the OUTSTANDING plan (this is its actual name). But I spoke with Coach MK to see if there were any factors I wasn't considering, which would be good reason to instead sign up for the INCREDIBLE plan (also its actual name). And it turned out she had like 5 solid reasons for me to stick to INCREDIBLE. So for now, Boston will remain a sort of nebulous "maybe someday" goal, because I have a lot of work to do before I consider it (I knew having kids and butt-issues would require a lot of rebuilding, but both have taken even more out of me than I thought).

SO, down to brass tacks. The whole deal with training by heart rate is that you build your aerobic base to make your body more efficient and able to go faster. And the way you build your aerobic base is by running slow and controlled. You run slow and controlled, and you recover better, and it makes you less prone to injury over the long term, and oh-by-the-way you get faster.

It sounds crazy and depending on what you read, the Internet may or may not agree. All this stuff involves science and math, and you can really dig deep and get all esoteric about it (and also go crazy trying to sift through the junk to get to the good stuff), but the beauty of having a coach is that she has done all that stuff for me, and all I have to do is follow the plan.

It did involve adding technology to the mix, namely a heart rate monitor. You can buy a heart rate watch and strap...OR in this age of smart phones you can buy just a strap and link to any number of apps. I went with the latter mostly because I'm cheap, and I'm part hippie, so the less I have to spend the more I feel like I'm being a "pure" runner, or some such thing. My phone app doesn't have some of the features a watch comes with (like an alarm when you go over your target), but so far my frugality has won out over convenience.

That said, I'm only a week in so I hesitate to make any large-scale declarations at this point. But here's what I can tell you from my first week--

  • This is an entire mind shift for me. Completely different focus, plan, everything. It's good to have new things to think about.
  • Running slow is its own exercise in discipline. I have to be a lot more mindful about it.
  • I'm tired and ready to be done at the end of a run, but I'm not thrashed for the rest of the day.
  • Sugar cravings are down this week, as are episodes of being "rungry."
  • After a few tries it is getting easier to maintain heart rate pace.
  • As time goes on I'll get faster, but for now my pace has gotten slower by about 3 minutes per mile (also, I'm not supposed to focus on pace), and it varies a LOT more depending on slope, wind, etc.
  • On Free Run day I did my "regular" easy-ish pace and was surprised at how WIPED OUT I felt afterward. Coach MK said, "Haha, you thought those were endorphins. ;)"
  • I love running all the more this week. Have I mentioned how much I love it????
In conclusion, the week hasn't been entirely rainbows and unicorns (my back and butt gave me some small fits for other reasons), but running-wise it has been a great start. I like to quote high-school-aged Dean Karnazes and say that I run with my heart, but in this case I'm actually running with my heart (rate).

Carry on, you poetic noble land mermaids...  

**Sidenote: the less preferable (to me) approaches include deliberately and relentlessly steering  every conversation toward trying to get people to kneel and say a prayer, knocking on strangers' doors, being "bolder," and/or hitting people with Bibles. Somewhere, somehow they have probably worked, or at least appeared so...but they are not for me. I mean, unless you want to kneel and say a prayer.  HAPPY TO HELP!

Jun 9, 2016

Made-Up Terms Defined: Semi-Plausible Deniability...

A little blurb I wrote on my Facebook page, complete with my favorite Gilda Radner sketch of all time...

There are times when you're mobile-working at the cube farm for the day, and cell reception is out in the hallway, and your phone rings with a work call so you're rushing and concentrating on getting out into the hall so you can pick up the call before it goes to voicemail, that you might forget to engage your core all the way.

When this happens, there's a slight chance a toot will escape. It will likely be a little toot, and not offensive. In fact it will be of such quality and (low) volume that depending on proximity, it might be mistaken for something different, like a shoe or ring scraping a wall, or something. This is called semi-plausible deniability.

Semi-plausible deniability is how you tell yourself that you have no idea who heard what, but it's maybe--just maybe--possible that what they heard was not actually a toot.

Or maybe they did hear that little toot in all its quiet little glory, but seriously, who cares? You are wearing a coat, for heaven's sake, and you walk around with a serious look of concentration because you are a Serious Worker, and you take professional calls in the hallway like a BOSS. Sometimes a little collateral gas enroute is part of the deal.

Either way, it will be a good reminder to always engage your core, and to walk around with a serious look of concentration that doesn't take any guff, and you will go far.

Carry on, Professional You.

You're welcome...

Apr 18, 2016

Playing Favorites...

Today I would like to talk about which of my children is my favorite, and why. I'm aware that it's uncouth to admit to such things, but I think when you hear the whole story you'll agree with me.

Now, when talking to them separately, I tell each that (s)he is my favorite and why. His Highness is most like me in personality, so we relate on many levels. Plus he is the oldest, so he can physically keep up more often with whatever we are doing. The Littler One is the biggest presence; he has ALL the feelings and ALL the spunk and personality, and is just a kick to be around. And Tiny E and I have a lot in common, being the girls of the family and all, and she is the sweetest sassy lamb.

I mean, under extreme duress and coercion, I might be persuaded to pick a secret-favorite, but it would be very difficult, as I'm sure many parents would agree. I tend to have daily favorites depending on who is having a hard or easy time at any given moment, but over time those balance out fairly evenly.


One of my favorite takeaways from my year of therapy was that I need to leave my family.  Or at least, leave them more often for short periods of time. Longer than, say, an evening, but not necessarily several weeks at a time or anything.

Incidentally, this is not the Cat Daddy's favorite part of my personal growth. Character-building is rarely fun.

That was, like, a year ago, and so far I've managed exactly 3 nights away from my family, with another night or two on next month's schedule. It's not quite the pace I was hoping for, but it is progress and we are getting there.


Which brings us to yesterday afternoon. Sunday afternoons are our traditional chores time. And by "our chores time," I mean "the kids' chores time." Sunday afternoons are our time to dedicate to harping on lovingly nurturing the children in the guidance of proper technique.

Usually we divide and conquer, one of us taking His Highness for bathroom duty, and the other helping the littles through their tasks. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet made it to my weekly commissary run, and we were out of snacks, so we had to change it up this time. We worked out a deal where I would go to the commissary, the Cat Daddy would help all the kids complete their chores with WAY less fussing than normal from everyone, and whoever finished by the time I got back would get to go out for ice cream.

I was not optimistic. It really could have ended up resembling something like World War III. However, they floored me by ALL finishing by the time I walked in the door with groceries. This means we had clean bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, cleared floors, empty little trash cans, and wiped-down stairwell walls. People were smiling, nobody was yelling, and I wondered if I had stepped into some parallel universe on the way from the garage to the house.

I had a happy fit, gushing about how great they all were, and how proud I was, and wasn't it fantastic to be done with the chores so we could enjoy the rest of the day?!? We all agreed that indeed it was, and I went into the kitchen to put the groceries away.

Soon the Cat Daddy came in to give me the debrief. I was mildly concerned about what hiccups they might've had along the way, but he said they all pitched in and did a really good job. I have a few theories about how my being out of sight makes them transform into angel children a lot of the time, but we figured the promise of ice cream also helped quite a bit.

The Littler One joined us in the kitchen, and I gushed over him a little bit more and asked how he thought they were able to do such a good job with so much less fussing than normal, and he said it was because I left. He then said (and I quote):

"Mom, you should leave during chores time every week! And Daddy can work with us, and you can go do stuff in the afternoon during chores time!"

My eyes brightened, and I said, "Come here! Give me a hug! I think you're right! You are SO smart!" And I immediately gave him a six-second hug.

The Cat Daddy laughed and said, "No! The Littler One! We're not supposed to send Mommy away!"

And the Littler One said, "Yes! She should go away and do things while we do chores!"

And this is why the Littler One is forever and always my favorite child...

Apr 4, 2016

Scissor Safety...

All that glisters is not good for actually cutting things.

Today I'd like to rant a little bit about the dangers of childhood. On the left is one type of children's scissors. While they have a rounded tip, they have real metal blades. On the left of course is a pair of plastic scissors. They're really interesting because while they will cut paper, the blades are plastic so as to merit the description "child safe" and slow the safety-conscious heartbeats of preschool parents everywhere.

Also, they are pretty much useless.

They came with a cute little pad of colorful picture pages for cutting practice. Tiny E LOVED them because they are sparkly, and definitely wanted to use them over the boring old scissors she's been using for ages. I helped her with hand positioning and whatnot, but she couldn't get them to work right. They kind of flailed about in her sweet little almost-4-year-old hands, and the blades were wiggly enough that instead of being cut, the paper either folded itself between them or cut, but in a ripping sort of way. She was all, "Cutting is too hard."

Nope. Terrible scissors are too hard, kiddo.

I handed her the metal ones and said "Here, try these instead." But she wouldn't. She REALLY wanted the sparkly ones to work out. So I let her flail them about for a while, until she actually said, in her sweet little almost-4-year-old voice, "Maybe you wight, Mom," and agreed to give the old scissors a try (A response which, incidentally, I stored up in my heart for future access and remembrance when the conversation goes decidedly differently. Not that I can use it in any way, but it will be lovely to remember days gone by).

Did she then cut all the pictures out perfectly? Of course not; she's not some sort of creepy paper-cutting genius or anything. But she had a steadier grip with several fingers in the big loop, and when she cut her little paper scraps to bits, they were nice, smooth edges.

On the parenting spectrum, we fall somewhere in the vicinity of the free-range arena. Of course I don't want my kids chopping entire fingers off as a habit or anything, but I'm OK with their needing band-aids or maybe even the occasional stitches (only once so far, knock on wood). I mean, I'm a grown-up, and I still get injured by stupid plain old paper from time to time. Boo-boos happen.

But the thing about this situation is that I see it as a case of respecting tools as not-toys, learning how to work the tools in an age-appropriate way, and using the right tools to do a job. Cut paper, not skin, etc. Use decent scissors, and cutting is just exactly as difficult as it needs to be for a sweet little almost-4-year-old. Some parents might see the more realistic scissors and think they're more dangerous, but to me that's analogous to grown-ups who see sharp kitchen knives as more dangerous than dull ones. Maybe it depends on your definition of "dangerous," but I think the better tools are safer because they work as intended.

In conclusion, since we have about 5 pairs of the Fiskars kid scissors, I decided it was best for all if I found a new home for the sparkly plastic ones. For our family, everyone is better off this way.

Don't fear the metal, kids. It's just a little steel...

Look at the nice clean edge straight through that house.

Mar 3, 2016

On Chiropractic and Caring...

Today I'd like to talk about my chiropractor.

The truth is that I started going to a chiropractor back in Alabama. I haven't written about it yet because for so many years I was anti-chiropractic, and I couldn't find a way to succinctly describe why I had not only given chiropractic a shot, but ended up doing about a 150-degree flip on the matter (No, not 180 degrees. Still about 30 degrees skeptical).

And honestly, it's kind of a boring story. Ever since prolotherapy, I've been putting a lot of work into getting strong and re-building a healthy neck/back/spine from so many years of hinkiness. I'm super-fortunate in that for the most part, staying strong will let me live well and (mostly) pain-free, but there are a few bits & pieces that I'll always have to pay attention to. So I ended up considering chiropractic for a long-term maintenance plan, and here I am.

Here's what I can tell you thus far about chiropractors--they are as many and as varied as any other doctors, and yes they are actual doctors, though not in the medical field, per se. My chiropractor here is a little on the woo-woo side. He has complimented my chakras and has a bazillion supplements to try if I should ever desire, but he doesn't require or really even push them unless I inquire. Which I appreciate, because maybe one day I will actually want to inquire, but not until I'm ready. The Cat Daddy says I've become a 'damn hippie,' and he's not entirely wrong (I haven't delved into the essential oils. Yet).

As I get to know Dr Chiro, one thing I like more and more about him is his kind spirit. His clientele is a mixed bag of all sorts of New Englanders, and he has a way to relate to every single one. He himself is sort of a quirky character, so it all fits together swimmingly.

To keep things relaxed and calm, he has a sign up in his waiting area about ending your cell call, "so you can relax and enjoy your experience," and he plays soft music of varying genres, and even my crazies are learning to keep it fairly peaceful (sometimes) when they are along for the ride. The office is in an old house, so everything is in pretty close quarters. While the treatment and waiting areas are partitioned, you can hear pretty much everything unless you go into one of the private rooms. At my appointment earlier this week, I overheard him teasing the lady next to me, calling her a "dainty lotus blossom," to which I raised my head and replied that I was TOTALLY going to tell my family that's what I am. A dainty lotus blossom. To which we all laughed because, well, it's pretty clear that neither she nor I is the dainty lotus blossom type.

With several of us lying on the treatment tables as Dr Chiro went around making his assessments and adjustments as needed. Deep breathing, lighthearted banter, thoughts of wellness, and overall relaxation were the mood of the morning...until the next client walked in the door. This lady had a presence about her. Heck, this lady WAS a presence. Her voice had an old-school throaty sound and was not shouty, exactly, but definitely a few notches above "soothing." She proceeded begin a cell phone call with "I hung up on you, so I'm calling you back." You could feel everyone hearing her conversation. The mood went to somewhat non-relaxed, and Dr Chiro grinned and softly uttered "Oh, God," as if she were his crazy loud aunt or something.  Those of us in the immediate vicinity chuckled softly in return.

Here's where it got clever, though. Her conversation continued, "I just arrived at my appointment, so we can talk until my turn, and then I'll call you back when I'm done."

Well, Dr. Chiro dropped my chakras immediately and peeked his head into the waiting room: "Come on back, Ms. So-and-So," and ushered her to a private room, complimenting her sweater as she (loudly) ended the call. He got her situated and resumed his rounds.

When he got back to my chakras I smiled and said, "You're a smart man," and he smiled back and said,  "Thank you, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day. See you next week," and sent me on my way.

It just goes to show that a little kindness does everyone good, and maybe chiropractic care is just as much about the caring, as the chiropractic. Maybe. Regardless, I hope when I'm older and crazier, I get loving eye-rolls and muffled chuckles at my antics, as opposed to, say, horrified gasps or blank stares. On the other hand, if I'm spending every spare moment talking on the phone, you'll know something has gone drastically wrong and maybe I need a little talking-to after all.

Just make sure you compliment my sweater...

Feb 21, 2016

On Foreign Objects...

Full of triumphant sass and squirms

My third kid is my "nosy" one.

I'm not talking about butting into people's business (although she does that too). What I mean by "nosy" is that Tiny E's nose is the subject of her attention much more so than the boys' noses were for them. She's a little fixated on keeping her nose cleared out, and all the toddler-type actions that go along with that (Building Immunities! is my battle cry).

Such things gross out the Cat Daddy to no end, but I'm fairly nonplussed; mostly because I too was a nosy little kid, and it worked itself out.** To my knowledge I didn't horrify anyone with public nose habits after the age of 4 or so, so I'm pretty confident that she will also develop in an age appropriate way and for heaven's sake stop eating her boogers.

So while it was a first for us, I wasn't terribly shocked at today's events. I did think it was a little...different...that she asked me to help her get a "crystal" out of her nose. But given the time of year I figured hey, those boogers get dried up in there, and perhaps one was being a little stubborn. She suggested I use tweezers, which again I thought was a little...different...but also very logical. I was also very excited to use the tweezers. I affirmed my commitment to be very careful sticking pointy tweezers in her nose, and took a look.

Of course, upon further examination, I realized that by "crystal" she meant "bead she had stuck up there," and after a couple of tweezer attempts and few questions all became clear, including the fact that tweezers weren't going to cut it on this one. 

I sighed deeply, knowing that this would likely mean a visit to Urgent Care, but since she was breathing fine and in no pain I figured I would check the Internet for any magical tips to try first. I didn't find much, other than "Try tweezers" and a tip called the "Mother's Kiss," which it turns out is an actual technique that people try and succeed at.

In true euphemistic fashion, the Mother's Kiss is on the order of the Kiss of Life in that it involves the mouth but no actual kissing. It's simple, really--the parent blocks the clear nostril and then gives a quick breath into the kid's mouth, sending the air up thru the nose and, ideally, dislodging the foreign object.

I understood the mechanism of it, and I'm used to doing odd and/or gross things in the course of any particular parenting day, so it really didn't bother me. My biggest concern was that this particular bead was the kind with a hole in it, so I wondered if the air would go straight through the hole instead of forcing the bead out.

But still. After some encouragement from this post, I reasoned that it was worth a try. At worst it would be unsuccessful and we'd have to go to Urgent Care anyway, and I'd be thought a weirdo by my family for trying awkward things. Which of course they already think, so there was truly, truly nothing to lose.

So I sat Tiny E on the counter and explained I was going to pinch the clear side of her nose and blow into her mouth. After a few giggles and some fine-tuning and snot-wiping, I gave a quick puff (sort of CPR-style) and...POP! Out flew the bead on the first try. We talked about not sticking stuff up her nose, washed off the bead and discussed its future, and came to a non-agreement which is moot anyway because the bead has now been lost and forgotten somewhere in the recesses of my quirky old house. She agreed not to put anything up her nose (at daycare) anymore, but I only give her about a 55% shot on sticking to that one. She's my nosy one, after all.

When we played Two Lies and a Truth at dinner that night, I got to say I made a bead shoot out of Tiny E's nose by puffing air into her mouth, and my entire family was equal parts amused, impressed, and grossed out. I assume that the Cat Daddy was entirely thankful I saved us a doctor trip, and that it was my privilege and not his.

In conclusion, the human body is an amazing thing, and if you are curious about something, sticking it in your nose is certainly one way to see what happens next. Just make sure you have someone on hand who is willing to, um, blow it out if needed...

**Little known fact: if you stick crayon pieces up your nose--and if they don't stay stuck--they will eventually come out in the form of crumbly snot. It's a non-threatening and effective deterrent to sticking-things-up-one's-nose.

Jan 30, 2016

Awesome Awkward Angsty Angst...

I've heard it said that blogs are kind of dead if you want to make a living from them (Whew! Pressure is off for meeeeeee!), but that Podcasts are moving or have moved into the blog slot.  And I've already mentioned my growing affinity for podcasts. I love them so.

There is one I found recently, called the Mortified Podcast. There is a whole Mortified 'thing,' where people go to stage venues stand up in front of a microphone and read their journals, diaries, or other writings from childhood or adolescence. Deliberately and on purpose. They have stage shows in lots of cities, and over the years they've compiled the audio from some of them, and sometimes added follow-up interviews, into a podcast. These are people from all walks of life, so it's a bit of a mixed bag which episodes you might find the most interesting, but it seems to me that there must be something for most everyone.

I'm trying to decide how much of an introduction to give before sharing this episode with you. I mean, I want as much as possible for you to understand how I ended up in the parking lot at work, having to stop the episode early and pull myself together from a serious ugly laugh-cry before I went inside, and needing to stifle a few escaping giggles for the next half hour or so. Then again if I explain too much...well, I don't want to ruin it, is what I'm saying.

 These are the things you should know going into things:

--You'll need about 20 minutes, and it's not for little ears (unless your kids are sailors like some of mine. AHEM).

--The first half was fun and sweet in a sassy way, but it was the second half that sent me into hysterics.

--There are F-bombs. I really don't like the F-word, but in this context it is kind of hilarious. I think you'll see why, even if you wince a little bit like I did.

--I was born and raised in Phoenix, but two big parts of my heritage are solid Midwestern values and nerdiness. Nerdery. Nerd-dom.

--This podcast perfectly exemplifies the struggles of adolescence that transcend all. In other words, farm kids can have attitudes too.

So listen. Enjoy. Have some earmuffs on hand for the F-bombs. Maybe cotton ones...


Jan 1, 2016

Merry New Year--2016

Dear Friends,

I would like to say nice and inspiring things about the new year, but instead I'm going to talk about Dr Who, because right now I'm a little bit wrecked over it.

I've watched Dr Who from afar for a couple years now, if by "watched" you mean "caught a few random episodes, thought 'I would really like this show,' but also thought 'I'm not sure I want to get into it, because I'll never get out again.'" My first episode was the one where he meets Amy Pond, so I suppose that would make the Eleventh my first Doctor, or "my" Doctor, as some are prone to say.

This summer/fall though, our friends the Pastors T (and family) came to visit over a few weekends. The Pastors T (and Family) are hardcore, die-hard Doctor fans, and the ninth season happened over several of their visits, so we all ended up watching on the couch together more than once. And, as expected, after an episode or two I told the Cat Daddy to go ahead and leave the series recording on the DVR for me. 

The biggest problem is that Dr Who is wonderfully silly and irreverent a lot of the time, but then they go and put in moments of great poignance and beauty, and then I start crying, and maybe spend a week or two grieving when a key character dies, and/or there is some sort of big goodbye to be made (or maybe all of the above within a 3 episode span). It's terrible and beautiful, and I kind of hate it. Sort of exactly like the tail end of the Christmas special, when the Doctor makes River practically burst with love and feelings, and she's crying all over the place and tells him "I hate you." So I guess in that way I'm kind of like River Song, and I could do worse than being similar to River Song. Dr Who gets me, and it's the WORST.

I haven't decided yet if it is good or bad for me to get into a show that brings out ALL the feelings. My feelings get kind of big for their britches sometimes, and I've historically done well to stick to mostly lighter fare. On the other hand, I have friends who say when they're feeling emotionally, um, stuck, watching a good feelings show and crying it out does them good. So there's always that angle.

In the meantime, my current project is going back and starting with the ninth Doctor in order to catch up on some of the back story. Because it is all connected. And by "some" of the back story, I mean "10 of the 50 or so years Dr Who has been in existence, and not including the books, spinoff shows, and audio stuff that has all contributed to the Dr Who universe." I'm hoping that getting a broader perspective will ease some of the heaviness and depth of this past season. For now it helps that the earlier episodes were not the extensive production quality they have now, and it feels a little easier to stay emotionally detached. For now. 

In conclusion, stupid Peter Capaldi and his stupid good acting are the worst, and the show also makes occasional references to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I also happen to really like, and so I think I might be done-for.  

Happy New Year...