Monday, November 30, 2015

Cereal Saturday

We've long been lovers of the days-of-the-week breakfast. It's how we've started the day for a few years. This year, we tried to switch things up a bit, but I overheard Helen telling her friend "I always know it's Friday because we have pancakes" and I noticed nearly every morning I cooked breakfast, Connor would consult the new line-up.

So we've gone back to our old line-up:
Monday - muffins
Tuesday - French toast
Wednesday - waffles
Thursday - cinnamon rolls or toast and eggs
Friday - pancakes

and we have also introduced

Saturday - cereal and
Sunday -  kids cook.  Every day, they have fresh fruit and Connor also has yogurt - because otherwise he eats so many muffins / pancakes / waffles that it's ridiculous. He needs some good protein calories to get through the morning.

My choice? I've opted for Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola, with it's 6 grams of protein per serving; topped with Qi'a Superfood Cereal -  which has another 6 grams of protein, all over Stonyfield Greek - which comes with its own 12 grams of protein. So a 24 grams of protein breakfast that can be put together in about two minutes.



I was given the above cereal selections to try. They'll be stocked in my cabinet regularly, it's such an easy breakfast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First 5K of the Season

Our goal race is a repeat of last year's Jingle Bell 5K. To train for this, Ed ran with the kids a few times, Helen has been running on Mondays with an after-school club, but ultimately we have not done as good at getting them running as we have before other 5Ks. When the chance to run a Turkey Trot with Moms Run This Town came up, we took it. Might as well see where everyone is at, I figured.

Ed has been ill, so he decided to run with Helen. Purportedly, her 11+ minute pace was all he could muster. Connor was jazzed about being able to take first place (the faster runners opted for the 5 mile route) which inspired him to drop from his 10 minute miles to a 9 minute mile to end it. It was a nice sprint, made nicer by the fact that my new Hokas were doing their best to cushion my steps, so I didn't end the run in pain.

To be faster than last year at the Jingle Bell run, Connor needs to get below 33:23, which he unofficially did last weekend according to my watch. To beat his best 5K time officially recorded to date, he needs to break 28:47. I'm pretty sure he can do this, particularly given that he was able to muster a sub-30 with virtually no training. I'm betting in two weeks time he can shave a couple of minutes off. Helen managed about a 35 minute Turkey Trot, so she's also got a shot a getting a PR when we run our goal race.

Fingers crossed for swift feet in two weeks!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Odyssey of the Mind - Vehicles are in my future

The majority of my OM team members expressed interest in the vehicle problem. Without knowing much about OM, here is what I do know. At the first meeting I attended, one of the coaches told me it took her several years of coaching before she would coach a team in the vehicle problem. Apparently, it is one of the more technical problems the students can solve.

So I asked a mom I know through a few things in Arlington about it, and she said "this is the hardest problem to coach. Your son will love it. But you are going to pull your hair out". So I sought the advice of a friend who coached last year at another school and she told me she just didn't give it as an option. But she also told me I should feel free to call  her when  it gets close to competition time and I am totally losing my sh*t because she will talk me off my proverbial ledge.

Though it's not yet official, I have started reading the vehicle problem in bits and pieces. Hopefully it'll make sense soon. If it works, it's going to be awesome. If it doesn't work, we're going to promise each other a high five and ice cream or donuts at the end - or maybe both.

Hopefully my co-coach knows more than I do!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Lost groove?

Tuesday, I ran 7 miles with someone I'm getting to know in the neighborhood, G.. We ran together a few years ago, but she was so much faster than me, I think I had to finally tell her to just go without me for the last couple of miles. She is, however, a very interesting person and while I was getting faster, she was having babies.

She had a preemie three months ago, and already she is at  my speed, so I'm guessing she'll leave me in the dust soon. But, I was all too happy when she posted on my moms' running board that she was looking for someone to run with in the neighborhood - even more happy when she posted a pace that matches mine. My own running partner fell though on Tuesday (MCM injury) so I shot G. an email and she was happy to meet up with me.

We ran pretty fast, but not as fast as she ran pre-baby, and not as fast as I thought I could run the route. I was tired. And she kept apologizing for holding me back and I was all "pant, huff, pant - you're not holding me back!".

On Thursday, I met a friend for my usual track workout, and somehow, the predicted rain turned into no rain, which was a super pleasant surprise. By the end of the workout, I felt good. But then today, I ran with a couple of friends for what should have been 10 miles but I had to walk a bit in the middle, probably cutting my portion down to 9 though they still got 10 in. And I was tired. So tired.

Possibly, I am tired because poor Ed is still struggling to make it through the work day, so doing laundry and other tasks around the house just isn't going to happen. Possibly, I feel tired because my shoes are worn out. It is now that I wish I kept better track of how many miles I logged in my shoes, but I do know it must be several hundred given the total number of miles I have run since I got them and my fondness for picking them up whenever the weather is decent. Also, I wasn't nearly this tired on Thursday when I wore other shoes.

In any case, I'm  tossing these babies (I already have an identical pair that I wore for MCM), and am hoping that I haven't lost my groove. Because I don't know what I'd do without running in my life. I was not exaggerating in my recent work performance appraisal when my boss complimented me on MCM and I told him that running was, quite literally, saving me.

Cross your fingers. And if all else fails, if you see my groove, send it back my way!

At some point, getting rid of worn out shoes will be a less emotional task, right? I still remember when I bought these at a sidewalk sale and couldn't believe my good fortune. I'm going to miss them, even with their replacement already firmly in my shoe rotation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Illness - part 1

We spent a few years skating away from sickness in our house. The rare day out of school, headaches (me), but nothing that some rest and advil didn't take care of. Until last year, when the whole house went down with flu. I was the last one standing in that situation, and fell the moment I stepped onto the airplane headed home for Christmas. By the time we arrived in Kansas, the whole family was sick, though Helen and Connor were on the mend.

This year, it seems the flu has already visited us. Ed spent all his energy moving some furniture on Sunday, resting here and there, and by Monday, he was basically immobile. It hasn't been pretty. Never have I been more excited to have our house cleaned than yesterday, when our cleaner came and worked her magic.

I'm now walking around the house reminding the kids to wash their hands constantly, I wipe off light switch covers and door knobs whenever I have a cleaning product in my hand, and I'm hoping that by being in the office - I'm able to duck most of the germs.

The kids have also become experts at getting themselves to school, which of course they are perfectly capable of, but usually Ed or I still walks or bikes with them the half mile in the morning. So far, nobody else seems to be sick. Knock on wood. I am really hoping not to go through a repeat of last year.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Can Change Happen?

Last year, I joined the English Language Arts curriculum committee. Ostensibly, the committee meets and makes recommendations to the school board. Whether the committee really has a voice, I'm unsure.

I joined the committee because all of the committees have great representation from parents with connections to special education, but almost no representation from parents of advanced learners. It seemed like an interesting enough adventure.

The first meeting I went to was horrible. Not only did people on the committee not care about my kids sitting in classrooms drooling from boredom, they were openly hostile. At one point, just by mentioning that I was at the meeting because there had been an announcement at the gifted advisory committee that it might be a good idea to try and join a committee, a man (who is thankfully no longer on the committee) stood up and yelled at me about how until we solved the achievement gap, there was no way our committee was going to deal with anything else.

Now, step back in time with me a few years, before I was a parent, when I spent my days researching public policy for people with disabilities. Somehow, Ed, a friend of his, and I got into a discussion about education policy. His friend pondered whether the whole system would be better off if more resources had been sunk into him and Ed - the best and brightest in the class. I told him no, the system would not be better. That he was allocated plenty of resources and we should be worrying about whether we could get everyone ready to take a job.

Fast forward back to today. Now that I'm a parent with a kid sitting bored in class, my tune has changed. So I understand where this guy was coming from when he yelled at me (though it was a bit of an overreaction and an awkward first meeting, to say the least). But I'm also keenly aware that the achievement gap can be solved in one of two ways - you can bring the bottom up, or you can put bricks on the heads of the kids at the top. And I'm really not interested in seeing a brick on my kid's head - and I've become more concerned with levels than gaps. Every child ought to perform at the highest level they can.

And so it has come to pass that I just turned in a recommendations report that, prior to my pen, was focused almost solely on struggling learners, which now includes some important mentions of the County's first goal - which is to ensure that every student in the County is challenged and engaged. We will debate the report at our next meeting. I'm curious whether my edits will stay in and if they do, if it even matters.

I figure I might as well try, right? And if nothing else, I'll force a dozen people to sit and listen to the other side of the story for one meeting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wardrobe Update via prAna - Office to Playground

Most days, I wake up, take a quick shower, and then dash out the door to get to work (3-4 days per week, add in time for a run). On days when I pick Helen and Connor up from school, I need to make sure I leave my office at 4:00 so I can get to their school by 4:45. If they don't have an after school activity, the schedule gets shifted earlier - with my departure coming at 3:00.

I then race to school, meet the kids, and typically take them to soccer / piano / trumpet / or violin. This means my clothes must be able to transition from work to hanging out at one of these places, and quite possibly to heading to a school meeting after that.

Enter prAna, a company Stonyfield introduced me to. They also hooked me up with the skirt to the left. It's the Trista skirt in spice. It's from prAna's organic cotton line and fits true to size (which is good, since I failed to try the skirt on until I put it on immediately before I headed out to a baby shower).

The skirt easily meets the standards in my casual office, and is stretchy enough to allow me to comfortably sit on a blanket while I watch kids practice soccer, or run around with them on the playground waiting for a sibling during an activity. The skirt also feels durable enough to  go the distance, which is important to me, because I tend to wear clothing for several years.

The only thing else  I need as  I run from one place to the next? A cup of Pacific Coast Strawberry Oh My Yog, Stonyfield's latest whole milk yogurt offering - which comes with 7 grams of protein per serving!

I'm looking forward to a week from now when soccer practice ends. I'll actually miss seeing the kids play - they've both made huge leaps this season. But I will enjoy having an evening back.



For a 15 percent discount on prAna clothing, enter JBYF15CAH at checkout.  (Not valid for Influencers, on Gift Certificates or with any other offers; Valid Nov 1 – Dec 15, 2015.)

Thank you to prAna for the skirt and Stonyfield for the new treat I've been enjoying at my desk.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Halloween with Helen

Helen and I partied with her class for Halloween, which ended up being a lot of fun for me. I'm in her class every couple of weeks running a book club (which has been extremely fun for me) but I'm generally not around when her teacher is around. Helen insisted I attend her Halloween party, and when I saw one of the volunteer jobs was to sit and read books at the end of the party, I saw a clear match.

I showed up to the party before it was time to start reading, which meant I got to turn Helen into a toilet paper mummy. I was pretty happy when she decided to dance around her classroom pretending to be a mummy rather than spend the second half of the allotted time wrapping me up. I think she saw that my larger-than-second-grade-size would make it difficult to cover me with our second role of toilet paper.

Happy Halloween!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Putting my body back together...

I am now two weeks out of the Marine Corps Marathon and today's run finally made me feel like I was put back together. But it took a lot.

For the first couple of days after MCM, I rested. On day 3, I ran 2.5 miles, just to try and get the lactic acid that was likely in my muscles to start easing its way out. After my last marathon, this was enough, but after this one - I was still sore.

And then a friend of mine sent an offer to try out Massage Envy, and since there is one located less than a mile from my home in Clarendon, I was happy to say yes (even though it meant missing part of one of the Royals' World Series games). I booked a 9:00 PM appointment so I could see Helen read a story at a school event before heading off to heal my muscles.

I had warned the spa when I set my appointment up that my body was a mess. The massage was fantastic.  I should've gone sooner - and the next time I run a marathon, I will! For only $60, you can get a first-time massage -  and since they got my legs back to working order, I'm guessing they can fix a lot of muscle aches.

After the massage,  I went on another short run during my regular track workout, one more easy run that resulted in me walking up the final hill, and today, finally, I made it about 10 miles at a pretty decent clip without feeling exhausted.

I've decided to drop my full marathon entry, which I picked up cheaply at last year's Rock-n-Roll marathon, down to a half. I'm spending the winter working on my form, including cashing in a certificate I won at a silent auction for a stride analysis. I think spending the next few months working on speed will be better than continuing working on endurance. Not sure what a reasonable goal for the half will be, but I'm thinking somewhere around 1:45 is reasonable (though a stretch, for sure). A friend wants to run a 1:37 half and use it to qualify for the NYC marathon, in order to avoid the lottery, but I'm pretty sure I need a bicycle to go that fast.

Thank you, Massage Envy, for setting me on the right path back  to feeling good!


Disclosure: My massage was complimentary. I'll be heading back after long runs in the future!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Walking home

The loveliest thing about Daylight Savings Time is surely the walk home from school when Helen and Connor stay late for special programs. Our street is bathed in golden light right at 5:00.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Run, Cowboy, run

On Halloween, my running group held a Kids' Fun Run. I had offered to help marshal the course since my children were among the older children attending, and they'd be fine without me running beside them. The night before the run, both Connor and Helen stayed up late. (Sadly, this was the game Ed and I chose for Connor to stay up for - and it was the one World Series game the Royals lost.) In any case, I decided if they were awake for the run, I'd take them with me. If not, they could sleep in.

Connor woke up about 15 minutes before we needed to leave, so he quickly donned some clothing  he could run in, gobbled something for breakfast, and we were out the door. I did not check in on Helen, because I didn't want to risk waking her.

Sadly, she probably came downstairs a few minutes after Connor and I left.

When Ed woke up, Helen was reading in the living room - and she was mad. She said she had been reading for HOURS, which was probably about 15 minutes.

And although I did miss running with Helen, I had a ball running with Connor. Often, when we run as a family, I run with Helen. Her litany of complaints can get a little tiring, and I'm not sure I want to subject Ed to that.

I started off with the half mile group, and made sure the runners had safely navigated the area of the course that could have cars on it. I then looped back to find Connor - and though one of my friends had the audacity to say I'd never catch him, I did. (That won't be the case for many more years, so I'm hanging tight while I can!) We then ran the last half mile of the mile long course together - and during that time, Connor was working really hard.

Not only was he working hard - he was doing it while keeping his cowboy hat on and his holster and gun at his side, a feat I found particularly impressive. (My costume was a pair of wings that I grabbed out of the dress-up box.) He opted to run through the water stop, and was fast and steady the whole time I was with him.

A friend snapped our photo, and it is most definitely my favorite running photo ever.

On the way home, Connor asked me if I thought he could run a marathon before he went to college. Could he? Absolutely. Will it be the best use of his time? Maybe not. I suggested maybe he should try out cross country in high school and see if he liked the longer distances before committing to marathon training.

Someday, we will run a big race together, Connor. And probably, you will have to hold back if you want to run with me, or you will be waiting for me at the finish. Either way, I hope you use that body of yours to see the world.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Campaign Season

Our home is inundated with campaign related phone calls. And despite all of these calls, I still didn't bother to figure out what voters in my area were deciding today. Guess I'll hear about it on the evening news tonight, or read about it in the paper tomorrow.

But there's one campaign - which makes NO phone calls - that I'm pretty excited about. Connor decided to run for school treasurer. Like the handful of other students who are running, he doesn't actually know what the treasurer does. In my mind, he's imagining sitting among piles of dollar bills counting and recounting them, just to make sure the total is correct.

In order to run, he had to promise not to run a negative campaign and he had to write a speech that was about 3 minutes long. Ultimately, he came up with the following platform.

1. Use the climbing walls that are in the gyms more frequently. (Some snake oil salesman convinced Arlington Public Schools to purchase these walls a few years ago. They are basically used as a display for a sign that says "keep off". Connor wants to help develop a policy to increase their use.)

2. Ice cream for everyone. (Because that's what the people want to hear, he told  me).

3. Develop better snow rules for the playground. (On the few days it snows, several classrooms end up staying inside. A few tend to go outside, but you're not supposed to pick up the snow. If you want to build a fort, you have to kick the snow around with your feet. Connor thinks kids ought to be able to pick it up.)

He noted his affiliation with various school groups and his willingness to work together as reasons to vote for him. Plus, he's good in math!

Each student running for office got to hang 6 signs. It was clear that Connor was going to need help completing his signs, so I enlisted Helen - who was all too happy to be designated campaign manager. She proved her worth immediately by discovering that Connor had glued his name on one sign backwards (LastName FirstName). She also helped write his slogan on one or two of the signs "Here Comes the Money Man", and helped decorate the signs and erase errant pencil marks.

She proudly helped hang the signs, and has begun trying to get the vote out in second grade. Unfortunately, at least one other candidate for Treasurer has a sibling in second grade, so Helen might not be able to bring second grade home for Connor quite like we hoped.

I think the campaign season lasts two weeks. Will the candidates decide to go back on their promise to run a clean campaign? Will all of the rumors Ed keeps pretending he's going to start get started? We're on pins and needles at Chez Connor and Helen.


Monday, November 2, 2015

My One Woman Party - Royals win the World Series

You can read actual news accounts of what happened over the past few weeks, but the short story is that the Kansas City Royals - after 30 years - became world champions last night. I stayed up for what would be the second game of the five game series that stretched across midnight.

It was totally worth it.

With my sister in Kansas City and a friend I used to babysit in Texas, we set up an online living room - as we had done for several of the games, complete with banter from friends who stayed close to home and those that fled, like me. What a way to spend a post-season.

After the final out was recorded (a strike where the Mets player was caught looking), the television erupted in cheers from the few Royals' fans who had gone to New York for the game, and my facebook feed was on fire.

These are the moments when I most miss living closer to home - because while I was reading reports of neighborhoods being lit up with fireworks (for over half an hour, in some cases!), my neighborhood was dark. Not even Ed had stayed up to watch the end with me.

So I slipped on my shoes, and went outside to light a ceremonial firework on my patio.

It was my one woman party.

And while it would've been even sweeter to be with like-minded fans, it seemed a fitting end to a glorious October and November.

Thank you, Royals. I'm already sad about how many of you will play for other teams in the near future. That's just the economics of the game. But for two post-seasons now, we've been treated to just about the best games a fan could hope for.

It would be impossible to describe how bad the Royals have been in many years - particularly those following the death of Ewing Kauffman, when the Royals basically had no owner. But the memory of those years is enough to remind me that all things are possible.