Friday, October 6, 2017

Running update

I have Achilles' Tendonapathy. As far as I can tell, that means a PT has free reign to massage the every-living-crap out my leg, causing me to limp around for a while, and then a few hours later - feel magically better.

I will not break myself while running, as far as the PT and the massage therapist can tell.

I'm cleared to do everything but speed work. My ankle is weak, I can't push off, this makes me slow.

But...I have three weeks to get the ankle in line, so now, I take full advantage of my standing desk and do leg lifts a few times a day, hoping to strengthen the little booger.

So...I still consider a 3:50 on the very edge of my abilities. It's likely to be a hot day (not good), but my Tuesday running partner is going to run the bulk of the race with me (cue choirs of angels here). She has a fascinating job, which crosses all sorts of interests for me, and it really isn't much of a stretch to think she could come up with 3+ hours of stories to keep my mind off what will surely be a very painful run.

My parents will also see me run, which will be a huge lift. (Hopefully they will not blink and miss me. That would be a huge bummer.) They'll probably see me one or two times in the first 15 miles, and then they'll head off to Helen's soccer game, or Ed will decide the crowds are just too much to bear for another glimpse. I totally understand this, of course.

I have promised myself when I pass my friend Erin, who always comes out to cheer, that I will not give her a huge thumbs down like a did last year. I immediately regretted my bad attitude, but by the time I saw her on her bike, my dreams of qualifying for Boston were over. I was hot. I was tired. I had let the day get the best of me.

And, so help me, if I make it through this race and get my BQ,  and then my running partner qualifies for Boston a few weeks later at her race, I'm definitely paying for the hotel room and dinner.

Because no way will I cross that line anywhere close to in time without her.

Send your ankle strengthening vibes my way!

Elaine

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Dinner Parent

I've been rereading all of these wonderful blog posts that have spoken to me through the years. I love the "gatekeeper" post as much as I love discussing the "invisible burden". I have been known to forward tidbits like these to Ed, mostly hoping for some empathy. Also, I wouldn't mind a little recognition sometimes.

I've been stuck with the job of gatekeeper and person who notices everything because my brain works like that.

And nobody else's in my house does.

Or they hide it.

Just last night, Connor needed his Boy Scout uniform. I do my very best not to involve myself AT ALL with Boy Scouts. I don't get the emails, I don't check in about what's going on. I show up, as needed, if given enough notice.

The number of times I have worn Connor's uniform? 0.

The number of badges that anyone else in this house has gotten put on Connor's uniform? Also 0.

So I guess that means I don't really ignore Scouts. I make sure the grunt work gets done.

But last night, Connor assured Ed and me he knew where his uniform was, and even though we were unable to attend some ceremony because Ed had scheduled something else, he would be fine. Of course. He had no idea where the little thing that goes on his scarf was, so I retrieved it from the basement, next to the washing machine.

Did I mention I'm the laundry queen around here?

But to the point of this post, two years ago, I went back to work mostly full-time. I still have pay periods where I'm charging annual leave because I can't squeeze all my hours in, but I'm pretty close to full-time. That first year, we spent a lot of time balancing who would stay at work late each evening, who would be home for the kids, etc. It was complicated, but pretty fair.

Last year, we switched it up and I became the evening parent. Which is to say, I haven't packed more than a handful of lunches in the past year plus, because I leave for work before Helen comes downstairs most mornings, and I'm running or preparing for work when Connor is readying himself.

But I am home for almost every dinner.

And while that is, in and of itself, a bit burdensome. It has also been the source of great joy.

You see, my children are old enough now to have theoretical discussions brought on by incidents they observe in life or in the news. Last year, we discussed all sorts of policy. I try very hard to balance my instinct to quash contrary arguments, and instead work to talk  through them allowing my children to share their views. We iterate through topics multiple times  until some resolution is reached. For now.

This is, hands down, my favorite part of parenting.

True, conversations can be tough. We've tackled the existence of god, birth control, and of course, taking a knee. We talk about freedoms my children have that other children do not have, the great wealth of opportunity that surrounds us, and occasionally I share my own despair.

And while being the dinner parent is not for the faint-hearted, and I occasionally worry about screwing up horribly,  I'm humbled daily by the complex thoughts my children are able to share.

I might not enjoy the gatekeeper role much, but I do enjoy being the dinner parent, which could also be called philosopher at large.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stonyfield's Future Leaders!

As I wrap my head around the leadership of our country these days (or lack thereof), it is easy to get overwhelmed, depressed, worried - and just about every other negative emotion that clutters my thoughts.

Top that off with a gun problem that all we seem to be willing to do is pray about, and it's easy to lose hope.

But, on the flip side, I am gifted with a set of friends who are the activists that will right this ship, and will continue to do good for their communities and other communities in need. Many days, that can be a real lift.

And it has not escaped me that the number of notices I get asking for recommendations for young women who might benefit from a STEM program, an internship,  or another opportunity have increased, of late. My daughter is not *quite* in the age range for most of the opportunities, but it makes me happy they exist.

There is one solid action I think we can all take, and that is finding a way to support young people. We're giving them a mess. They're going to need all the lift they can get.

I've been lucky to be part of Stonyfield's blogger program for several years now. I'm proud to be a tiny part of what appears to be a very concerted effort on their part to improve communities.

It is, with pleasure, that I am announcing my own donation to the Stonyfield effort to prepare #FutureLeaders for work saving the environment. As part of that effort, they're matching up to $125,000 in donations between now and November 6 to send children from Boys & Girls Clubs of America to an AZA accredited zoo. You can donate and learn more here.

True, we could throw up our hands. But I'm not quite ready to do that. I'm going to find places to invest in young people, and this seems like a reasonable effort to me. And given that climate change might be the issue that needs the most attention, I'm all about efforts to inspire young people to care about our planet.

Elaine

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Little Piece of Paris

I want to live in Paris. I want to wake up surrounded by the kind of beauty that cannot be found in the US. We're just too young a country. I want to see ladies riding their bicycles by me, wearing their long skirts and fashionable tops.

I want to run the Paris marathon, cheer the riders at the end of the Tour de France, and then sit in the park where Hemingway hunted pigeons. I want to know the artists at Monmarte.

I'm not moving any time soon. But a friend up the street visited recently. When I realized how close she was to the Eiffel Tower, I immediately let her know about my all-time favorite chocolate shop, Jean-Paul Hevin, was just around the corner from her. Not only did she go there to get herself a treat. She brought me back the most delicious box of chocolates I have had for a long time.

So each night, when things settle, I eat one of those chocolates and I am instantly transported to Paris.

Thank you.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Run down

I have been training like mad for the third attempt at the Marine Corps Marathon. It might be my one legit chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon, though I've been hopeful before. My secret weapon? I've aged. And yes, this is not normally good for speed - but it does produce TEN extra minutes to run my race. And trust me, 10 minutes in a race that needs to last just under 4 hours is like getting a dog year. I'm psyched.

But I'm also tired. I've been running 5 days a week for 11 weeks, and I can tell it's adding up. One of my toenails has been on the edge of liberating itself from my toe for several weeks, and each morning I look to see if it finally jumped off at night. Another one is loaded up with bruises, which is how the first attempt at toenail liberation started. My arches have newly formed callouses, I've sloughed off more skin than I care to recall, and I have chafing where sun does and doesn't shine.

In other words, this training cycle has been pure glamour.

There's at least one enormous bright spot in the whole thing. My Tuesday running partner thinks she'll be able to run much of the race with me (she makes her own go at qualifying for Boston a few weeks later). She is MUCH faster than me, but also younger, so her qualifying time is something I'd need to use a bicycle to hit. I remember having a pacer for my first half marathon, and it's just such a huge mental lift, that if anything can push me under my BQ time, I know this is it.

I have also logged many, many miles with friends - even though I've been half delirious for some of these. Yesterday morning at the track, I was full of focus trying to hit a particular pace. One of my all-time best friends, who is not normally a runner, was there. I didn't even know she ever came to the track - so when in the dark she waved to me, I absolutely did not recognize her. I thought she was waving at me because I was staring at her awesome shirt.

Turns out, we were out that evening, and she mentioned she saw me. I was, naturally, completely dumbfounded. Then, I asked her if she'd noticed the woman in the awesome shirt. Her reply? "That was me!".

Today is a rest day, which I'm filling with lots of water drinking in preparation for tomorrow's 24 mile run. And I am desperately hoping for one of those awesome "I DID IT!" kind of feelings after that run. Because I think it will make me less tired.

And I'll feel a little less run down.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (simple) ice cream!

A couple of weeks ago, my family spent the week in Minnesota with my childhood friend and her family. My friend is the antithesis of a helicopter mom, and this worked out fantastically for my family. We were in the perfect spot for some freedom finding, and while it may not have been the smartest idea to let four children aged 9 - 11 figure out how to relight a fire that had not been put out properly by some teens the night before, wow did they have fun. And, in our defense, we were not that far away when this mission was going down, and they were right by the lake and it was pretty wet - so odds were there wasn't going to be anything randomly lightly ablaze outside the fire ring.

Besides letting her children run wild with my children, my friend has also mastered the art of "just do it" parenting. Want a grilled cheese? She'd answer a few questions, and then her kid would make a grilled cheese sandwich. They're not at all intimidated by the stovetop, and failure is just part of learning. That's all kind of a side bar (and a reminder that I'd like to eventually post about this trip) to the real point - I want my kids to be more independent in the kitchen.

In pursuit of kitchen independence, I've been letting the kids make boxed mixes of cookies. And though a little part of me dies at not carefully measuring high quality vanilla into a bowl of other high quality ingredients - they're learning to cook - and that's good.

Helen moved onto ice cream a few days ago. In the name of simplification, I took Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk up on their offer of a free can of their product, went to their website and found a recipe for vanilla ice cream and voila - ice cream ready to be frozen in less than 10 minutes - all created by Helen.

Combine the three ingredients and either put in the freezer like the recipe recommends or do what we did, and stick it in the ice cream maker.
  • 4 cup (2 pts.) half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
The ice cream tastes about as close to Dairy Queen's vanilla as I've ever had. And because I am from Kansas, I love DQ (we don't really have it out here, a pity).




Easy and delicious! And I see more in our future!

Elaine

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Group Bike Ride

Connor commuted by bike for the entire school year. A friend started biking with him pretty early on, and despite a few bike wrecks (one of which ended in a broken tooth!), they pretty much made it to school by themselves every day. Occasionally his friend's mom or Ed would drive them, and then Connor would either walk home or take the school bus.

As a result of his daily biking, he became quite proficient. His ride to school is over a couple of rolling hills. In the past few days, Ed and I both noticed he could charge up and down them with ease. He's also learned to see the value of biking. He wanted to put his pokemon in a nearby gym, so he hopped on his bike and did the deed. Independence!

Saturday afternoon, the local bike store was having a group ride that was family friendly. Best of all, it ended with two scoops of gelato at the store next door. This seemed like a win-win. Connor and I biked to the start, biked the route with the group, had our gelato, and biked home. (And every time we eat gelato, we remind ourselves how much we love it and say "Grandma Carlene loves gelato, too!", and Saturday was no different.

Round trip, our ride was only about 5 miles. Connor could've gone much further, and perhaps we'll try a longer ride this week since Helen is gone (she's good for about 5 miles, but the lack of gears on her bike means our neighborhood hills can be a bit much).


Elaine

Monday, June 26, 2017

Older vs. Younger Child? Boy vs. Girl?

Yesterday, I dropped Helen off at her first sleep away camp. She's been wanting to go for over a year. Last summer, I wasn't quite ready, and the week her friends went didn't work out for her. This year, she had two friends ready to go and there was no way I was stopping her. Off to Girl Scout camp she went.

When Connor first went to Boy Scout camp, Ed accompanied him for the first part of the week. I'm not sure if that's what made me more comfortable about him going away, or if it's because in general - I tend to approach Connor's milestones as "yay! you made it!". In contrast, I tend to approach Helen's milestones as "Ugh! Slow down!". By way of example, when Connor gave up nursing (19 months - forced off because I was sick)? I was pregnant with Helen on the way. When Helen gave up nursing (30 months!)? I knew I would never nurse a baby again. And that's been pretty much the pattern their whole lives.

In some ways, I think it's the difference between an older and younger child. But I worry that it's also that Connor is a boy and Helen is a girl, and somewhere deep inside I just worry about her more. Which of course, isn't one bit fair because of both my children, she's the one much more likely to know and demand what she needs. Objectively, she's better equipped to handle new situations.

It is not the fact that we're separated that makes me anxious. She's been to my parents' home for a few summers now without me, always having a great time. But there, she has Connor, which is often the case. And Connor will stick up for her, help her out, and in general make sure she's doing OK.

Have a great week, Hel! I can't wait to hear your stories. And I promise you now, I will not mention at all how anxious I was for you. Because I know you deserve this.


Elaine


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Memorial Day Camping

I'm not a huge fan of camping. Mostly, I don't like the mess that comes with it. I also don't have access to the internet and my computer, so I can't sneak in an hour of work in the evening. And while yes, I can admit this is probably a good thing, because of the hours I work - it's pretty necessary for me to spend some time in the evening catching up.

However, everyone else in my family loves camping. This has resulted in the three of them taking trips without me, while I am away doing something I prefer. But this past Memorial Day weekend, Ed planned a trip, and though he gave me the opportunity to opt out, I figured it was about time to show up at one of these.

On Saturday, I went running with friends and then hopped in the mostly packed car. Ed, characteristically, did the driving, which allowed me a little time to nap. I had decided to bring my friend Pico to enjoy the trip with me, and he settled right into the car. (Pico, as some of you know, is my favorite child because all day long he sits quietly, making not a sound. True to form, he kept his calm all weekend long.)






We arrived at camp, got set up, and then we waited out a brief shower before heading over to the lake to rent a paddleboat. Having older children makes paddle boats pretty nice. Not only did I not have to worry about someone jumping off the boat, I enjoyed being a rider the entire hour.

By the time evening rolled around, we were hungry. Ed had forgotten to pack some of the s'more ingredients, so he headed into town to get them. As our hunger mounted, I decided to try and execute Ed's plan of campfire pizza. And guess what? It was a total success - and I would do it again!



Sunday, we went on a lovely hike, although Pico spent most of the time hitching a ride with Helen.


That's Pico peeking out of Helen's hood.


Helen and Connor spent much of their time deciding how high and far they could climb, without causing me to have a heart attack. (See why I like Pico best?)

In the end, I'll call it a successful camping trip, thanks mostly to Ed's planning and Ed having learned that the thing I really hate about camping is all the stuff sitting around out of place for days after the trip. I believe everything was tucked back into its place before Monday night.

Elaine


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Middle School Math

In reviewing blog posts from last year, I can only guess that the reason I didn't record my fight with the school district for an adequate math class was because I was a woman suffering from policy whiplash and administrator induced PTSD. But as I sit on the other end of the year, I think it's worth putting down on these archives. If nothing else, Connor can read it later and know that I did my part, and eventually, the school system did its part as well.

Connor had amazing first and second grade teachers. They moved right along with him and when he needed a challenge, they handed it to him. Third grade crushed Connor's and my soul. By fourth grade, he had a set of teachers that cared but, after the school year ended and I talked with them (after having met with them multiple times over the course of the year), they told me that they knew they had failed Connor. The strategy is to teach to the middle, go pick up the students who are struggling, and then turn to the kids who are bored. The strategy, almost always leaves nothing for the kids seeking enrichment. Typically, it meant a packet of work with no explanation or assistance. Fifth grade, he had a teacher who was quite impressive, but in the end, just couldn't give him what he needed.

At the end of 5th grade, students in my school system take the Math Inventory (MI - formerly the SMI). The math inventory, coupled with the end-of-year tests are used to determine a student's math placement in middle school. Connor's score indicated he was ready for geometry. That's an 8th or 9th grade class in our school system (on the advanced track).

The school system assigned him math 7 for 6th graders. That class is two full years below where Connor tested. I talked with the gifted facilitator (not helpful). I talked with the math teacher (she was supportive of anything to get Connor into a better class, knowing he was facing boredom and knowing how bad that can be for everyone involved). I had meetings with the assistant superintendent of instruction for math. And, after our first meeting, she told me Connor could be skipped ahead an entire grade level (which I rejected) or she would get the principal at the middle school to put him in algebra, so one level below geometry. This was what I wanted, so I was happy with that. Present at the meeting were the math department head and the head of middle school math.

The assistant superintendent retired, the  principal balked, so I started down the path of talking with the middle school math coach and the math department head. They were unrelenting. We had more conversations than I care to recall, and with each one, I sensed time slipping right through my hands.

And then, the math coach proffered a compromise. She would take the top 20 or so students based on their MI scores (at least 1100), CoGAT scores (at least 130), and state test scores (these last tests are useless because every child in the class scored 100 percent on them). She'd stick them in the same room. The class would be called Math 7 for 6th graders, but she guaranteed the content would be rich and Connor would not be bored.

With a lot of skepticism, I relented, crossed my fingers and said a quick prayer to St. Anthony. I met with the teacher of the class and the math coach outside of conferences once, and I had a rough patch of email with the teacher which ended in Connor telling her "my mom said not to send this stupid stuff home to me". (For the record, he at least cleaned up my language, but I thought he wouldn't bother repeating the sentiment. The prior evening, as he had done for about a week, he handed me his iPad because this ridiculously easy program wasn't working. I couldn't get the stupid program to work again and I said "take this piece of sh*t back to your teacher and tell her not to ever send it back home with you".) By the time I emailed the teacher the following day, she'd already had the exchange with Connor, and the program never came home again.

But guess what? Once the class got on track, it provided an actual challenge to Connor. The school system kept its word. No one could be more please than I when Connor brought home is new MI score. He came home with a score indicating he had not just advanced "one academic year" - the stated goal of the school system, he had advanced 2 academic years. Which means he now owns a score indicating he is proficient in 12th grade math (the test considers geometry to be a 10th grade class - so he's now two academic years farther along than he was at the end of last year).

This is a miracle. I am grateful. Connor lit up when I told him how much progress he has made. It provides the perfect reason for WHY you challenge kids. I would say Connor was interested in the class about 60 percent of the time, which is light years ahead of where he's been the past several years. It is also about the level a math coach told me he needed to be at to stay interested in math.

Last I talked to the math teacher, she wanted to keep the students together for another year, but it's not guaranteed. Added to the fact that a new principal starts in July, I already know what I'll be spending July and August doing. Because I cannot handle going backwards and watching Connor sit in a class next year bored out of his mind. I need that class to keep going for my sanity, as does Connor.

Bur for now, I am really grateful the compromise worked out. One year of middle school math is in the books!

Elaine