Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book #39: Runner's World Run Less, Run Faster

Title: Runner's World; Run Less, Run Faster: Become a faster, stronger runner with the revolutionary FIRST training Program
Authors: Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss

The book behind the FIRST program, which transformed me from a 3:55 marathoner to a 3:27 marathoner.

I needed something to get me out of my running slump, and this book did the trick. I'm now excited about getting back to running after my self-imposed one-week break. I'm going to do a 5K speed run and see how fast I am, so I can plug all of the numbers in the the formulas and set a new goal for my new marathon this fall. I loved the FIRST program when I used it over the winter, and the book is an excellent companion to all of the (free) info available on the internet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Book #38: Curry

Title: Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
Author: Lizzie Collingham

In Curry, Lizzie Collingham uses traditional Indian restaurant dishes (korma or vindaloo, for example) and uses them as chapter headings for her explorations of the history of food across the subcontinent.

Curry is pretty similar to The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, but with a much more scholarly bent. If the Fortune Cookie Chronicles is Newsweek, Curry is more The New Yorker. It's still very interesting (I actually think I liked it more) but it wasn't a quick read. Instead, it's more of a slow simmer. But it, like just about everything I read these days, made me hungry for some Indian food...

Book #36: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Title: The Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini

I read this book for the first time less than a year ago, and went on a two-day binge reread (for book club) over the weekend. My feelings about the book haven't changed, so you can read my original review here

Book #37: The Host

Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer

When Wanderer, an alien life form whose species invades Earth and takes over humanity to serve as hosts for their souls, enters the body of Melanie, she's surprised when Melanie continues to keep up residence.

I really wanted to like The Host. And actually, I found it really thought-provoking and interesting. But it was long. Way, way, way too long. A good 300 pages too long, I think. And for a book without much action and just a lot of being holed up in a cave, that's way too long. Anyone think Meyer might be getting paid on a per-word basis like Charles Dickens? If the book had been 300 pages instead of 600, I think I would have loved it.

Book #34: Unaccustomed Earth

Title: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Eight short stories about second-generation Indian-Americans navigating childhood, adolescence and young adulthood in the United States.

I'll admit it, I have some kind of inborn prejudice against short stories. Even though smartmama keeps trying to convince me to take on her favorite genre, every time I pick up a book of short stories, I get frustrated and end up putting it down before I finish. Not this time. Lahiri's stories felt like my own. Her characters struggles with being bored as a stay-at-home mom, relationships with adult children and their parents, going through adolescence when you feel separate from the dominant culture-- all of them could have been written about me. As I read the stories, I kept thinking of that famous opening line from Anna Karenina, which says something to the effect of "Happy families are all happy in the same way, but unhappy families are unhappy in different ways." Tolstoy makes happy families sound boring. The families in Lahiri's book while not perfect, are, for the most part, happy, but they're definitely not boring. I just got finished ordering her first book of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, from amazon. I can't wait to get my hot little hands on it.

Book #35: How To Eat Supper

Title: The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show
Author: Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift

eah, this is a cookbook, but it's so heavy on the "stories and opinions" that I spent as much time devouring it as if it had been a regular book, so I think it counts.

If you've been around me over the last five years, you probably know that I'm slightly obsessed with Lynne Rosetto Kasper's NPR food show, The Splendid Table. It's what gets me through my long runs on Saturday mornings, and even though my regular dinner fare is much more lowbrow than the recipes in this book, I felt inspired after receiving the book for Mother's Day to step up my cooking a few notches and try to cook a few things from the book each week. So far I love what I've made, and I love what I've been learning as I read. I even tolerate the admonition to use Sharffen Berger in anything calling for chocolate, as well as the word organic on practically every single page of the book.

Book #33: The Left Hand of Darkness

Title: The Left Hand of Darkness
Author: Ursula LeGuin

Genly Ai arrives on Gethen, a wintry planet inhabited by hermaphrodites, in order to convince the Gethenians to join an intergalactic trading alliance. Along the way, he faces many obstacles and finds a friend to help him achieve his goal.

I blogged about this book at fMh, so if you want to find out how I felt about it, check out the discussion over there.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Right after I came back from Nashville last month, I spent some time thinking about my running over the next year. I knew a lot of people talked about getting burned out from running too many marathons back to back, but I was just so giddy after the Country Music Marathon, that I envisioned myself doing marathon after marathon until something gave out on me.

Over the last month, I've been training for the Wasatch Back (which is less than four weeks away-- yay!), signed up to do a race on July 24th with my sister-in-law, Alison, got picked in the lottery to run the St. George Marathon at the beginning of October, got asked to run in another Ragnar Relay here in Texas in the end of October, tentatively planned on a repeat performance (hopefully minus the viral illness) at the Texas Marathon on New Year's Day, and that's all before the big Kahuna-- Boston, next April.

Yesterday, when I woke up to do my 18-mile run, I could hardly pull myself from my bed. It was dark, and I was tired, and the bed seemed so inviting. It's been so hot all week. Yesterday, at 5:45am, it was 80 degrees, and probably about 80% humidity (it kept threatening to rain, but nothing ever came). Somehow, over the last six months, I forgot how brutal running in Texas in the summer can be. I know I've said this before, but it's just like running in the bathroom after someone took a water heater-draining shower. And the treadmill in my bedroom, with its huge east-facing windows, isn't any better for my morning runs. In just a week, Bryce and Annie will get out of school, and I'll have four to contend with instead of two when I lock them out of the room and try to sneak in a quickie (run, that is).

Anyway, yesterday morning I did nine miles before I decided that I just couldn't hack it. Did you hear that? I couldn't hack it. I went to the gym and finished up with a spinning class instead, and even there, in the air-conditioned relative coolness, everyone complained about how muggy and sweaty it was. For the rest of the day, I felt terrible: tired, irritable, kind of sick.

This is what running in the summer does to me. And now, because I've loaded my schedule up with races from now until next year, I can't take break. Every single Saturday, I'll be up before dawn, hitting the concrete. Ugh. And even though I love running, I kind of hate it too right now. I know there were lots of people (my friends Elisabeth and Melodee included) who wanted to get into St. George and couldn't, so I feel like I have to slog through the endless sweaty summer and not bail on this race. I'm just not very happy about it right now.

Can somebody give me a pep talk?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Halloween in May

On Sunday, I was doing the solo-parent church thing when Maren had a pooptastrophe, ruining her outfit, the floor of the cultural hall (we're slow when I'm by myself), and my outfit. So I took her home for a quick change, and left the kids with my friend Tamara and her husband. They played with Tamara's folder games and apparently didn't do anything too terrible in my absence.

Then, after church, Tamara called. She said Isaac was playing one of the games, which was about holidays, when he told her that he missed Halloween because he was in the hospital. He actually had his second femur-draining surgery on Halloween. Now that he's getting better, Tamara thought it would be fun to recreate the holiday for him.

So last night, about fifteen families from the ward met at a nearby park. The kids, dressed in everything from batman pjs to tinkerbell costumes, went from trunk to trunk collecting candy. The adults chatted, relaxing as the sun sank in the sky and the day finally cooled off. Isaac got to wear the Diego costume he got for his birthday seven months ago. He was adorable, and so happy (and he's walking really well with his new shoe lift, which is great, too). Several of the moms showed up without their husbands but with four or five kids in tow, juggling new babies and sweet treats. Since I've been in that same situation many times myself, I really appreciated that they came. I always think of charity and service as something not very fun, but I think that we all, adults and kids alike, had fun. And I definitely felt the love for our little family from our ward family.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I love Thursdays...

Monday-- babysitting swap, soccer for the big kids, Family Home Evening
Tuesday-- cub scouts
Wednesday-- physical therapy for Isaac, ballet
Friday-- physical therapy

We haven't left the house all day. Maren caught Isaac's nasty fever/cold thing, so I didn't even hit the gym this morning, and since I can keep her feeling pretty good with a little bit of Tylenol, we've used the day to get caught up on laundry and ironing and cleaning the bathrooms. And I just love knowing I don't have to schlep anyone anywhere after the big kids come home from school. For the first time since Bryce started kindergarten, I think I'm actually looking forward to the summer, when we don't have anything on our agenda in the late afternoons.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

all it takes is moving a few chairs

Tuesday has traditionally been my big house-cleaning day. It's the day I tackle the messiest part of the house-- the downstairs, encompassing the sticky kitchen, the messy family room, and the dirtiest half-bathroom on the face of the planet. Lately, I've been finding very good excuses for putting off the Tuesday ritual, at least until Wednesday or Thursday. For one thing, it takes two good, solid hours to clean the whole downstairs, and between spinning classes, and non-negotiable trips to the library and donut shop, sometimes I just don't have two hours.

But I've found a trick I want to share that seems to help. The first step to cleaning the downstairs is moving all of the chairs, stools, rugs and trash cans from the kitchen and bathroom to the family room. It only takes about a minute, but once it's done, it's like I've committed to seeing the project through to the end. Giving up and putting everything back on the dirty floor just isn't an option anymore.

So when I'm feeling really lazy, really eager to talk myself out of tackling the mess, I try to work up the energy just to move the chairs. Then I can sit back down at the computer and gear up for the work ahead, knowing that sooner or later over the course of the day, I'll buckle down and get the room clean. And podcasts help too. Lately I've been enjoying The Kitchen Sisters, The Splendid Table and Word for Word.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

on writer's block...

I'm a great writer
speeding down the freeway at 70 miles an hour,
out for a peaceful Saturday morning run,
or elbow-deep in sudsy dishes.

But when I finally sit down,
monitor and keyboard expectant,
waiting to pass judgment

Turns of phrase, ideas, complete paragraphs
simply evaporate,
washed down with the bubbles and dirty water.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

on feet....

Bryce got a new pair of Crocs for his birthday. They make his feet look big. Really big. Adult-size big. So I tried them on and they fit me. I thought it would take more than eight years to have a kid whose feet are as big as mine are.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On aging...

Yesterday, my mom called me on the way home from the doctor. She had just taken 10 syringes to the leg in the final step to eradicate the great big varicose vein on her calf.

Ever since I could remember, my mom has had a big ugly vein on her leg. Her dad has one too, and so does her aunt, her grandma, and several of her siblings. As a kid, I figured that a big ugly vein would eventually become part of my own future.

When I got pregnant for the first time, I checked my legs religiously to see if there were any looming varicosities. When the stretch marks finally appeared on my belly, during my 38th week, I figured the veins would pop out too. When they didn't, I felt like I had gotten away with something I didn't deserve.

Three more pregnancies, and, by some kind of miracle, the veins on my legs stayed nice and unbulgy.

Then, last night, as I sat in the twilight of my playroom floor, tossing toys in bins, I looked down at my calf, and it was covered in a big, dark, ugly vein. It seemed a cruel twist of fate that I couldn't even blame the varicosity on one of my children ("you did this to me!"). I spent the rest of the evening pondering getting old, and realizing that despite my best efforts, my body was going to eventually crap out on me.

As I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that the vein had spots descending from it. Those spots looked like they were dripping down my leg. I reached down and rubbed them, and they came off. After we left the gym yesterday morning, I stepped in a puddle. I thought it hadn't gotten me, but apparently the mud splashed up my leg, and left a big ugly stain, which I interpreted in the half-light to be a varicose vein.

I'm glad it's not. I must have had veins on the brain yesterday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's been three weeks since Whitey died...

Remember when Whitey bit the dust a few weeks ago? Within a week we replaced her with a fancy new 26" flat-panel. We hooked her up in Whitey's old home, the top of Eddie's dresser, got in bed to watch LOST, and realized we could not see a darn thing.

The problem, of course, was that a flat-panel television needs to be viewed from the proper angle. Up and off to the side and in the dark just won't work. But since we were flat-panel virgins, we didn't know that when I went to the store and picked out the new tv. So we had two options-- spend an additional hundred dollars to swivel-mount the tv on the wall, or move it to a new location.

Since we'd already spent way too much money, we opted to move it. If you look to the diagram on the left, you can see a rough-estimate of our bedroom's floor plan. Now we look at the tv straight on, which definitely works for watching shows from the bed.

I've watched enough HGTV to know that interior designers are big believers in trying to make a room work for its intended purposes. The bedroom, in its old layout, worked pretty well for its purposes. We could watch tv in bed. I could watch it on the treadmill. I could watch it from the bathroom (the door to the left of the bed goes into the bathroom). It was great for folding laundry, since I'd dump the clean laundry on the center of the bed, stand at the foot, and catch up on the DVR while I folded.

Now, I can't watch tv while I run. Or while I'm in the bathroom. The laundry folding thing sort of works, but only if I stand on the left side of the bed instead of the foot of the bed. It's forced me to rethink how we use the whole room. I miss Whitey.

The good news is that the big dead space at the foot of the bed is no longer dead space. It's great for yoga (I'd always get a crick in my neck while doing yoga videos under the old setup). I can now feel good about enforcing the "no kids on the bed" rule (yes, I'm anal about how it's made), since they can sit perfectly comfortably on the floor with a clear view. I've also found a great open spot on the floor for doing projects. If I actually did any projects, anymore, that is. At night, when Eddie's gone, I've taken to stealing a beanbag from the boys' bedroom, propping the laptop on my lap, and multitasking in front of the tv in the evenings. It's pretty nice. Between the sweet new tv setup and May sweeps, I'm not getting much reading done these days.

But now I think I need a bench or a loveseat or something at the foot of the bed to lounge on (a chaise?). It would be more comfortable than the beanbag chair. But it would probably be more expensive than the wall mount. That seems to be the story of my life-- I try to economize, and it just ends up costing me even more than if I'd just spent the money in the first place.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A very happy Mother's Day to all the moms in my life....

I love you all and appreciate the moms you are and the mothering you do to my little family:

My mom, at her favorite place, playing with a favorite boy:

My mother-in-law, Gwen, at her favorite place, with a favorite girl:

My godmother, Annie, with another awesome kid:

My sister-in-law, Patience, holding her baby, Mateo:

My sweet Nana, a mother to six, grandmother to eight, and great-grandmother to eight more:

My aunts Kate and Beth, both holding babies:

My sister-in-law Alison, who paddles a mean canoe:

My sisters-in-law Callie and Cate (a mom in embryo), with assorted other members of the clan:

My sister Jilly, who already mothers my brood:

And the ones who make it all worth it:

Friday, May 9, 2008

hair hangups

As part of my "celebrating motherhood by getting the heck away from my kids" day this weekend, I'm getting my hair cut. I always put off getting my hair cut as long as possible, so it's way too long, way too scraggly, and I'm wrestling with the idea of cutting it all off. I go through this whenever I cut my hair, which might be part of the reason why I only do it twice a year or so.

More...There's nothing exactly wrong with my hair. It's thick, slightly wavy, and falls about six inches below my shoulders. Whenever I get it cut, hairdressers tell me that it's great hair. I guess it would be great, on someone who gave a darn about it. I don't. I don't want to dry it, don't want to style it, don't want to deal with it. I just want to be able to pull it up and off my neck (it was 90+ today when I went to pick up my kids from school), and right now my ponytail gets so sweaty while I'm out running that my back looks like it belongs to a teenager. And it stinks. So it's got to go. (As an aside, I have zero interest in doing my girls' hair either-- they're beautiful little ragamuffins and pretty much the only ones to show up at church on Sunday without bows and braids. They'll probably need counseling for it when they grow up).

So do I cut it mostly off or cut it all off? I'm trying to decide if I want the A-line bob, a la Posh Spice or the girl in the Downeast Basics catalog. It would be long enough in front that I could pull it into a ponytail for running, but short enough that the ponytail wouldn't feel like, well, a big sweaty pony's tail. Gross.

The other option? Cutting it all off. The idea is so liberating, but I'm scared. Have I reached the age and stage in life that if I cut it now, I'll have short hair forever? I've noticed that the closer my friends inch towards 40, the shorter their hair, in general, becomes. Conversely, I'm also afraid that it will look ugly and I'll be stuck in that horrible in-between stage for a really long time. I've had short hair a couple of times, and it is such a pain to grow out again. Furthermore, I hate going in to actually get the hair cut (at least the appointment-making and schedule-juggling part)-- and having it short will necessitate monthly cuts. And then there's the fear of looking exactly like my mom, whose ultra-short hair is her signature look.

So I'm guessing that I'll play it safe, lose about six inches, and call it good. But I'll be wishing I had the guts to throw caution to the wind and chop it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

does funfetti equal love?

This year I've taken over the responsibility for making my kids' birthday cakes (a position previously held by my mom, who loves doing it, but she hasn't been around for the festivities lately). Annie wanted white cake with white frosting, and I made a white chocolate lemon cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and lemon curd filling for her birthday party. It was a really pretty cake, and a labor of love on my part. It was also really, really good-- with a great mix of sweet and tang and total decadence. The kids, when they dug into the cake, ate happily until they got to the lemon curd, when their noses curled up almost in unison. After the party was over, Annie commented, "you know, the cake was really good Mom, but what was that yucky sour stuff in the middle?"

When Bryce's birthday rolled around, he requested white cupcakes with chocolate frosting. He's pickier than Annie is, so I knew that I couldn't be too adventurous. I made the cupcakes from our favorite birthday cake standby, the aptly named "Best Birthday Cake" from the Perennials cookbook. Then I frosted them with an amazing whipped chocolate ganache. But after "Happy Birthday" was sung and the Blue Bell ice cream cups were consumed, I was left with a whole bunch of barely nibbled cupcakes.... Today I threw away about a dozen of the leftovers when I realized I was the only one still eating them.

I don't think I'm trying to be a snob, or striving to be the next Martha Stewart when I bake overly gourmet cakes for my kids' birthdays-- I just want to show them that I love them. But then I wonder if I'm screwing them up for life by giving them the impression that things have to be fancy and gourmet and well-made in order for them to be good. Is it my own insecurities as a mom that has me spreading sour lemon curd into a cake that I'm serving to six-year-olds?

Annie, my godmother, was asked to bring a cake to a wedding reception last year. She's a fabulous cook and a wonderful baker, yet she brought a funfetti cake to the reception. Why? Because funfetti is the bride's favorite kind of cake. I aspire to be the kind of mom who can make a funfetti cake for her kid's birthday and not wonder about how it will reflect on her. My kids always come home from birthday parties singing the praises of the Wal-Mart cupcakes-- would they have happier birthdays if I just went to Wal-Mart and threw a pack of 24 cupcakes into the cart and called it good? Can I do it and hold my head up high and not cringe as I serve them? Smartmama suggested that I solve the funfetti issue by adding sprinkles to the Best Birthday Cake mix, but would the hybrid satisfy either the mama or the kids? I'm not sure.

For Bryce's family party, I made a very basic banana cake (an enhanced cake mix cake), with very basic (yeah, homemade) chocolate frosting. He's been loving it-- eating a piece every day after school and savoring every bite. So I think I'm starting to get it right, at least until someone requests funfetti.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bad news, good news.... and more good news

The bad news is that we spent virtually all day yesterday at the doctor's office. Bryce had a well-child checkup in the morning, and then we headed into the medical center for Isaac's marathon of appointments. He had his blood drawn (never a fun thing), several x-rays taken, followed by a visit with the doctor, several more x-rays, and another visit with the doctor. It was a long, long, long day-- I don't know how you working moms do it-- I was exhausted!

The good news is that we don't have to go back and see the surgeon for a year! He said that although the leg still looks pretty ugly, it seems to be healing well. We got a prescription for an orthotic lift that will attach to the bottom of his shoe to make the legs of equal length. The surgeon said that he should stay away from trampolines, bounce houses, and anything that might make him fall from a great height.

The more good news-- we started physical therapy today. We had originally planned to go to PT in the medical center, but due to their long waiting list, got a spot in one of the satellite offices instead. It's just about as close to our house and I parked right outside the door to the office. If you've ever fought with the full garages in the TX Medical Center, you know how happy that makes me! Anyway, I feel confident that our little guy, with his funny orthotic shoe, will soon look less like a bird about to take flight when he walks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do you think Elder Ballard feels bad?

If you're LDS and you have little kids, you've probably heard The Apostle Song, which is sweeping through YouTube like wildfire. Annie watches it at least ten times a day and even Isaac knows all of the words. If you're not familiar with the song, it lists the members of the church's First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve apostles, as well as a short identifying line. Some of the descriptions are positive ("Jeffrey R. Holland was a Yale guy" or "Russell M. Nelson operated on folks") and others fairly neutral ("Richard G. Scott is from Idaho" or "Quentin L. Cook is from Cache Valley"). Then there's M. Russell Ballard, who is described as having "sold used cars." Every time I listen to it, the line makes me chuckle. I know there's nothing wrong with being a used car salesman, but you've got to admit, the job sort of has a bad reputation. I resist the urge to picture him wearing a loud sportcoat, trying to make a deal. I even looked up his bio on Wikipedia, to see if selling used cars was the apex of his career. Apparently he was a pretty successful businessman, with several car dealerships, as well as other business holdings. It's not like "sold used cars" even really rhymes with "was a football star" (Elder Wirthlin's tagline)-- couldn't they find something else to highlight about Elder Ballard? I'm just wondering if he has an inferiority complex about being sandwiched between the Supreme Court Justice and the football star?

Monday, May 5, 2008

He's 8, but he's still my baby!

Bryce turned eight yesterday. We've been celebrating all weekend. He had a video game birthday party on Friday night with four friends. We ordered pizza and made cupcakes, but they were so busy smashing and brawling on the Wii that they hardly ate anything. I think they all had a good time. Over the weekend, with Eddie gone to Dallas, I took the kids on a marathon zoo trip, where Bryce "saw everything but the jaguars and a couple of birds." Let's just call our willingness to be dragged all over the entire zoo our birthday gift to him. Yesterday he opened his presents, and I think Annie has finally stopped crying over the fact that she didn't get a pair of Heelys too. We had a delicious birthday dinner of Tyson chicken nuggets (Bryce's choice), and now that dad is home, we're going out to dinner to make the rest of the family happy, too. It was a great weekend and I can hardly believe that the kid who started out life weighing less than five pounds is now up to my shoulder. He's getting baptized next month, and all day yesterday he kept updating us on the amount of time that had passed since the magical early-morning moment when he turned eight years old ("it's 11:32, that means I've been eight for exactly five hours and 48 minutes!"). Happy birthday, buddy!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I have an announcement to make....

I've been slow about getting around to saying anything (crazy week around here), but the fantastic women of Feminist Mormon Housewives have decided to keep me around after my two-week guest stint there. So my list of hats now includes wife, mom, runner, lover of fine chocolates, Relief Society teacher, mommy blogger and fMH permablogger.