Thursday, May 25, 2017

School 5K

Whew - this wrap-up is late, but for the record, Helen ran her school 5K a couple of weeks ago. We spent the month of April training - and by that I mean I ran with Helen 3-4 times a week for 0.5-1.5 miles. One of our runs would take place on Saturday or Sunday and it was our "long run". Because Connor had a band trip the day of the race, he was able to escape training for the most part, but several times he ran with Helen while I was cooking dinner. That was nice!

I decided to make some of our long runs "destination runs" so we would start at our house, run to a dog park, run to the farmer's market, run to a Starbucks to get hot cocoa - something to make it so we could just get out the door and use our run to get to something else. Then, Ed would come and pick us up when we were done with whatever we had run to do. I think it worked well, and it meant we had some chatting time after our runs, which Helen and I both like.

For our last long run, it was around 90 degrees, so definitely not ideal conditions. Ed joined us as we ran most of the course (only it's a teeny bit harder than the actual course because from our house, there's an extra hill and then we skip a nice flat part of the actual course).

Running and photography is hard! Sorry to cut you off, Ed.
By the time the race arrived, I figured Helen could run it in 28:30 miles, which in my book is a pretty solid run. Helen's official time was 28:36!! I was definitely impressed with her. She worked hard. A friend of hers had decided to start training for the race 3 days before the race, so she did not have as great a race. After Helen crossed the finish line, she went back and cheered all of her friends on.

But - the absolute highlight of the event is that this friend came up to Helen and said "Helen - you were so fast! You might even win an award! You worked really hard for this. I'm so impressed with you." And that is a nice thing for anyone to say. For a 9 year old girl who is tired from running a 5K to say it impressed me a lot.

The only lowlight of the run was when a boy in Helen's class heard her coming up on him in the home stretch. He was exhausted, Helen was running hard and getting faster. He moved to the center of the path to try and block Helen out. I reminded him he needed to share the path and Helen flew by.

Officially - Helen was the first finisher in our family. Ed tried his best to catch her at the end but he just couldn't do it.

Congrats on another great 5K Helen!

Before - with my friend from the Netherlands!

During

After!


Elaine

Friday, May 19, 2017

National Zoo!

For as many times as Ed and  have attended the National Zoo's annual fundraiser, Zoofari, it's somewhat surprising I've never written about the event. It's top notch. Food tents from probably 100 restaurants - all serving small bites of something delicious. (Pro-tip - resist all sandwich and pizza type items, there are usually only 2-3, if you attend. Eating them dooms the stomach to getting full too early. Even though I don't eat meat, I was so full the first year I attended I had to implement a "soup only" rule midway through the event, because chewing would've been too hard.)

In any case, last night was the big event, and again - Ed and I met up with friends and ate, and ate, and ate - and even when it sprinkled a bit, we just kept eating (though I did grab a second plate to keep my macaroons that I was bringing home for the kids dry). Most importantly, we won a backstage visit with an Andean bear with our friends, which will be awesome, whenever it happens. We've won a backstage sloth bear tour so many times, Helen and Connor used to think it was just something our family did annually.

I had prepped for the event by only having yogurt for breakfast and a light lunch, because I wanted me stomach to be empty.


That, friends, is the key to a power breakfast, brought to me by Stonyfield! And also, a power snack, which I employed a few times last week as I made presentations at a few places outside my office.

Besides winning the bear tour (proceeds of which go to fund the zoo's conservation efforts), my friends also won a backstage penguin tour. It takes place in Pennsylvania and is only for 4 people, so my crew won't be joining. But cool - right - given that Stonyfield is partnering with the AZA Safe program and one of the animals being protected by this program  is a penguin.

A normal person would've taken a lot of great food photos last night, but it's really hard to balance a camera, a plate, lines, plenty of fancy cocktails, and good conversation. So, the camera was left behind.

Instead,  I leave you with one of my all-time favorite Zoo photos, for when they used to be open in the morning and allow runners through. I miss that run, a lot.


Admission to the National Zoo is always free (you pay for parking if you decide to park there),  which might explain the many hours we've spent as guests there. They let you bring snacks in (yay!), which makes this a trip that can be quite easy on the wallet.

Elaine

Thank you, Stonyfield, for the zoo recommendations and yogurt!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whole Me - Prana Discount Code - Style!

Summer has come, gone, and come again - which is, I suppose, the definition of spring. Seriously, there have been runs in 80 degree + weather, but I was wearing long sleeves a few days ago. Friday's run was cancelled due to a monsoon outside my door, and Saturday's 5K was a perfect 50 degrees.

I've been spending much more time contacting my Senators than I ever have in the past. I needed to remind myself of this:


So while the Senate takes a moment to breathe before they start throwing legislation at us again, I'm focusing on a joint campaign by prAna and Stonyfield: #TheWholeYou. I'm making sure my wardrobe has a few new pieces that are:

  • reasonably stylish
  • travel easily
  • acceptable at bot the playground and at happy hour
And I'm making sure I bring a daily snack to work that will fill me up - without being junk food. Seriously, I need to turn my diet back around if I'm ever going to get faster. I'm taking daily walks at work, and something I'm proud of is that I've started biking to work. In the past six weeks, I haven't used my car to commute and I've only gotten on the metro for 3 rides - twice going home and once going in to work. 

I'm ready for summer, whenever it decides to arrive! This dress will roll up perfectly in my bike bag and be ready to wear once I arrive at work.



Use this code for 15 percent off your order at prAna: WHOLES17CHG.

Disclaimer: I was given this dress, but I actually own several prAna outfits that I purchased, and Ed owns a few shirts from prAna. I like their clothing, and the coat I got last winter is really warm! Stonyfield also send me coupons for yogurt. THANK YOU! 

Elaine

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Here We Go Again

I'm sure I've written this post before, but I can't find it. So, just so the record is clear - it is May and it is no longer acceptable to make any demands on my time related to school. Capiche? School has proven itself irrelevant enough that we are solidly in the "just get through it" stage and softball and baseball are taking up those evening and weekend hours where we might've been able to contemplate school, could we muster the ability to care.

School teachers get this. They're in their own sprint to the finish, trying to balance cramming for state run tests with needing to keep students engaged for 6 more weeks. That cannot be an easy task.

Other parents do not get this. Now that I have children in two schools, I have two teacher appreciation weeks to plan for, along with a coming email about end-of-year celebrations, gifts, etc. I don't reject the notion of doing something for the teachers. They're gutting it out - daily - and I've seen them after state tests finish. Rather than phoning it in (as I have already done), they turn on the good stuff. That favorite lesson plan that doesn't quite fit into the curriculum is sure to make an appearance and the willingness to try something nutty is high. But I do reject the stream of emails reminding me to send in particular items, wear particular colors, bake for this, provide a hand for this, and more.

Here's what I want. I want one email at the start of May laying out every damn commitment you expect me to make over the next 6 weeks. I want 1 signup genius that covers it all. I want to sit down with my calendar and figure out a strategy for getting through that doesn't involve compromising the other work I'm trying to do (both paid and volunteer). And I want 1 email summarizing every item that needs a donation - be it a class party, a thank you gift, or something else. Favorite teacher retiring? Get it on the list. Another teacher is having a baby this summer? Add it. Someone needs to use a hot glue gun to put some precious memories in a book? Yeah, that too. Most importantly, if you've already decided on the date of something, get it out there.

But here, friends, is the golden rule. If the project wasn't started in April, it's too damn late for this year. Hold your great idea until next year or summer. Really, people will appreciate it more and you will forever have my thanks for not adding one more thing to my pile.

Elaine




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Math Festival

There is no dearth of amazing things to do on the weekend around here, but there's a trick in finding balance. Do we need some outdoor family time? Would it be better to have some one-on-one time? Can we attend a festival without feeling overwhelmed?

Overall, I think we do a good job of mixing it up - and though it saddens me to let some really great opportunities go by, sometimes it's what the cards call for.

Last Saturday was the National Math Festival. Over the years, many people have told me how great the event is, but I've never managed to get myself or a child there. Often, I feel overwhelmed at the thought of dragging into DC on the weekend, or there's a playdate arranged, or I decide the kids need less, not more, academic enrichment. (Though they get basically no suitable enrichment at their highly rated public schools - despite honest effort by the teachers, in most cases.)

In any case, the day was drizzly, Helen had softball midday and Connor had baseball in the late afternoon. Helen had a playdate with a friend in the morning, opening up the opportunity for some one-on-one time with Connor. I floated the idea of the math festival, and he was game.

To compensate for my dread of riding the subway on the weekend (I seriously love having the option of metro during the week, but the weekend comes with the risk of very long delays, which make me nuts), I decided to risk driving. (Driving comes with its own problems, almost all revolving around traffic that's out of my control.) The drive in was not only smooth (thank you, Waze, for the excellent directions) but thanks to a second app on my phone (Parking Panda), I was able to easily find a cheap parking spot within a few blocks of the festival. (At this point, I had basically won the day because Connor is convinced I can't use my phone, but I had already used it TWICE to make our trip easier.)

The Math Festival was fantastic. We opted to attend a few lectures - one of which was mind blowing, and the other of which hit the sweet spot of Connor's interests AND the level of difficulty was perfect. He left with great questions, thoughts that kept coming up throughout the weekend, and a set of SOMA cubes - which are pretty fun to play with.

Most of all, we spent the better part of the day hanging out with each other, and I am all too aware that this is a state that won't last long.


This piece of art is crocheted, and was on display at the festival. Connor not only indulged my desire to go into this room, he struck up a conversation with an artist who had made a portrait using only two shapes in a non-repeating pattern. I felt a little weird snapping a photo of that piece of art - so I give you this one instead. I love it because I love when traditional women's crafts are elevated to art.


I am a little disappointed that I didn't go back with Helen later in the day. I hate the idea of reinforcing that math is for Connor and not her. But, I wanted to attend with just one child at a time since they have very different math abilities at this time. And, she had played one of two scheduled softball games, was wet, and a friend invited her over to play. She was excited about that offer, so I figured that's where she should go. About the time that playdate ended, another friend invited her over for a sleep over, which she was very excited about - so heading back at night wasn't an option. This did allow the rest of us to sneak over to Mussel Bar for dinner - which, if you are wondering, is a horrible place to eat the day before a 10 mile race.

Elaine

Elaine

Monday, April 24, 2017

Penguins...and Yogurt

Years ago, our first South African au pair arrived and the first night at dinner, we were talking in broad strokes about what we knew about South Africa and asking lots of questions. At some point, Ed piped in about a penguin that lived in South Africa, which he had read about in the newspaper.

Having just helped Connor with a report on King Penguins, I wasn't so sure Ed knew what he was talking about. More to the point, our South African au pair had no idea what Ed was talking about, so it wasn't long before we decided Ed had just misplaced the penguin from whatever story he had read. But Ed would not be deterred, and occasionally he would tell me that he knew there were penguins in South Africa.

And not that surprisingly, he was right. Today, I would bet a lot of money that the article he read made the point these animals are in trouble. In the last 100 years, the number of African penguin breeding pairs has dropped by 97 percent. Today, scientists estimate there are roughly 25,000 breeding pairs left. The reasons are many and are not surprising - oil spills, loss of nest burrow sites, and a reduction in prey caused by commercial fishing.

I learned this, because tomorrow (April 25th) is World Penguin Day - and as part of that day, Stonyfield yogurt is kicking off their support of the AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program. They're supporting the program in several ways - but big ones are making a substantial donation and also doing their part to keep toxic pesticides out of the environment. The penguin is one of ten endangered species the program aims to help.

As a big kick-off event, Stonyfield and AZA are hosting a Facebook Live for kids and their parents to get a firsthand look at these awesome animals, and learn about the conservation work being conducted. The broadcast will be direct from  Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT at noon (EST). It will broadcast from the Stonyfield Facebook page  You can also check this out for a little AZA-Stonyfield humor.

Further, Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

For my crew's part - we headed up to Baltimore on the Monday after Easter to visit the Maryland Zoo. I'm not sure I've ever been there - we tend to head over to National Zoo (which is not nearly as big, but is very close). And guess what the Maryland Zoo has?


Even though our visit was cold, drizzly rain, we had a fantastic time visiting the zoo. Connor was a great sport. For some reason, I decided it was going to warm up, so I convinced him a jacket and shorts would be fine. I was wrong. We were both freezing.


We brought a snack (there's even a pavilion for picnickers) and also had some pizza from the zoo snack bar. We needed warmth!


And I think Helen and Connor stayed in here just so they could be warm for a few moments.


Elaine

I was gifted tickets to the Maryland Zoo - which was a real treat, and inspired our trip when I realized the kids didn't have school last Monday (surprise!). Opinions are my own.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Born in China

Last Tuesday, Helen was off at a birthday party, leaving Connor free to be my date for "Born in China". Although we had friends living in China for a couple of years, Connor and Helen were both too young to visit and too young to leave with my parents for a couple of weeks. That was probably our best shot of ever visiting.

After seeing Born in China, I got a little sense of what I'm missing. The movie follows a group of pandas, golden monkeys, and snow leopards through a year, providing incredible images of what life in diverse habitats looks like. Of course, it is nature, which means it can be a little harsh for this mama!

Every time I see a panda cub, I think back to the first baby panda at National Zoo. It was born about the same time Connor was born - and though Connor was the mightier of the two at birth, a few months in the panda was bigger. Friends of ours had passes to see the pandas many times, and because the timed passes were often for daytime hours when most people were working, Connor and I were their guests a lot!

The movie is slow paced, allowing the viewer to really let the beauty sink in. My only complaint was that sometimes the narration was a little campy - and at times seemed to be driven by anthropomorphism more than research. Perhaps the traits they were describing as human really were what the animals were feeling, but I think the movie might have been more powerful without this angle being on display so overtly.

Both of us enjoyed the movie, and I definitely enjoyed the chance to hang out with Connor. We had dinner beforehand and even got in a quick shopping trip since we arrived at the mall an hour before the movie started. I can finally ditch some of Connor's clothing that he has grown out of!

Elaine

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Standing Together

*I just looked in the "draft" folder of this blog, and realized there were over 100 draft posts. Talk about starting something and not finishing! In any case, this was obviously written a few months ago, but I figured I might as well make it permanent.

It's really this simple. We are so much stronger when we stand together than when we fail to support each other and tear each other down. It's obvious, right? And yet, seveeral recent incidents have left me confused / upset / feeling alone.

Helen's friend told me not too long ago that she hoped Hillary didn't win because she wanted to be the first President. This sentiment made me want to explode. Because in my heart, I know that the chances of Helen's friend being elected President are a million times higher if Hillary is elected now. I realize Helen's friend is 8, and she hasn't experienced glass ceilings and sexist undertones at meetings. She hasn't watched a male colleague pass her idea off as his, hasn't had someone tell her she's being too emotional, and if a boy has spoken over her to make his voice heard over hers, she's probably elbowed him or shouted louder - because at 8, that's a totally cool reaction. She hasn't strategized with other women in the office about how to amplify voices at staff meetings (and if you think that isn't happening, read this). I think I handled the comment well by telling the friend I was extremely hopeful that Hillary would be elected and that I thought we were all better off if she was.

And then there are my running friends, a sub-group of which ran Ragnar with me. Every single person did everything they could to get the team across the finish line. It included saying a run was too much, picking up extra legs, our VOLUNTEER - a mother of two of our teammates - switched from volunteer to runner by donning a pair of running shoes and taking a leg. Now that's teamwork! We were so lucky. It was such a clear example of everyone working together and just doing whatever it took. Heck, two of our injured teammates drove the vans (a surely thankless task), one of whom eventually picked up a leg as well. It was crazy. I am so lucky to have these women in my life. Another woman who was doing a different race the weekend of Ragnar has come through so many times when I have emailed some ridiculous request about meeting some random time and place to help me through miles. She even sacrifices her husband sometimes telling me I should hook up with his group.

I was at a bachelorette party on Saturday night and I know half of the women well and some I really didn't know at all. The women I don't know well took the lead and planned an amazing weekend (I missed Friday, which I had thought was a bad choice and it ended up being worse than I could've imagined). I was having so much fun on Saturday that I wore a kids' headband with sparkly things on top and served as wingman for the bride in accomplishing a few ridiculous tasks on the checklist the planners had devised. Apologies, Kent Narrows. I promise we will not be back. Again, so lucky to have the bride to be and her friends in my life. The whole weekend was about coming together to celebrate a common friend. Even one of the women telling me she was voting for Trump (I was wearing a Hillary shirt) couldn't dampen the spirit of unity in the group.

**New material, added today.**

It is easy to get really sad, these days. I am surrounded by thoughtful people working very hard to keep this country on what we perceive to be the right path. We call, we write letters, we talk about important issues of the day. And despite the losses (Gorsuch is now on the Supreme Court thanks to the republicans deciding to change the rules rather than nominate a more moderate judge), there have been some victories. Namely, 22 million people who were threatened with losing their health care still have it and tax reform that dumps tons of benefits on those who least need them isn't even close to passing yet.

So hang on, folks. Find someone you trust, stand together, and let's right this ship!

Elaine






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

5K Training Season Begins

The elementary school 5K is coming up in May, so Helen and I have started preparing for it. Last year, Helen needed a lot of assistance. She requested that Ed (1) have an iPod playing her music; (2) carry water; (3) carry the arm warmers she borrowed from me when she warmed up; (4) carry the visor she borrowed from me after it started annoying her; and probably more. A friend dubbed Ed the "running Sherpa". She had a great race, including a sprint to the finish.

We started this year slowly, as usual, logging a couple of half mile runs. On Saturday, we went for our first long run - which was 1.8 miles. We stopped once to fuel with a Hershey kiss, stopped a second time to see the dog park, and ended our run at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Afterward, we found a Starbucks a few blocks further down the street, which is our goal for this weekend. Our big plan was to run to get hot chocolate, shot at the nearby farmer's market, and then have Ed drive us home. Thankfully, Ed was game, because I'm not sure Helen could've managed running back home. (The path there is mostly downhill, home would be uphill - with a backpack of veggies!)




She definitely understands that it's not possible to just hop up and run 5K. This means she's willing to train, but would kind of like to skip it all together some days. At the finish of these races, she is always so proud - that I don't have it in my heart to have her skip it.



Connor won't be running the race this year. He's got a Boy Scout camping trip that weekend. I've thought about trying to run it "all-out", but I'll do whatever Helen wants, given that this is really her race.

I ran my own 5K not too long ago. I went out with friends the night before, had trouble waking up, and essentially drove to the start, grabbed my bib, and started running. Not ideal race prep, but it was fun. I won the entry - and in the end, I was glad I ran it. Official time was 24:51. I had decided I should at least run a sub-8:00 minute mile - and I came it at 7:59. Phew! 7th in my age group - so nothing too grand, but solidly respectable. Now though, I kind of want to run when I'm ready and see what happens.

Elaine

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Leprechaun didn't forget us - but he was late

I ran with a friend the morning of St. Patrick's Day. It was a lovely run, and a bit of a celebration to honor a baby of hers that didn't live. During our run, we talked a little bit about family traditions, and one in our house is the annual leprechaun visit. Annually, the leprechaun visits with a riddle, sends the kids running all over the house looking for clues, and eventually gives them a few coins (often from their banks, which the leprechaun appropriated because he forgot to get new ones). As we talked about this, it never even dawned on me that he was supposed to have visited the night before.

By the time I got home from my run, Helen was pretty upset that there hadn't been a visit. Connor figured we had just been skipped. He was off to school and Ed reported he didn't seem that upset. But the lucky thing for our house is, that even though our regular leprechaun failed to visit, that night we would not be left unharmed. A replacement leprechaun headed our way. I missed the event, as I was out running (again), but by the time I got home - there was much excitement. Though how s/he escaped the slime trap Helen had set is beyond me.

No photos this year, but I did want to note the tradition lived on - though in a slightly revamped form.

Elaine