Saturday, February 23, 2008
It's a lot of work to leave four kids behind for a week. My mom flew in on Thursday, and I handed her a ten-page "bible" of instructions, with details ranging from what each kid eats at each of our town's fast food establishments to which classrooms in the church building they need to get picked up from when Primary ends. When my godmother flew in this afternoon, I sat them both down for an hour and drilled them on how to use each of our three tvs. After they got through the basics, I'd send them out of the room, mess up the tv and satellite, and make them come back and figure out what was wrong. I haven't had so much fun being sadistic since I quit teaching school. I have a feeling that they'll still be hopelessly stymied, but, as my mom said, they can always read books. Maybe this is just what I need to get Isaac to kick his Noggin habit.
I, on the other hand, plan to spend exactly zero of the next 10,080 minutes watching Noggin. I have my bag packed with a couple of bathing suits, my running shoes (yes, I am crazy), seven or eight books, and not much else. It's going to be pure bliss....
Mimi and Grannie, however, are going to be sorely in need of a vacation when we get back. We sent them out for a nice, kid-free dinner tonight, just so they can store up a little bit of peace and energy. They're definitely going to need it.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Last fall, when I started training for my first marathon, I was going to do everything right. I had a very detailed schedule, which included four days of running, two days of cross training, and two days of abs classes to help with my core. As soon as my kids went back to school, I showed up at the gym every Tuesday and Thursday to pretend that I could keep up in an abs class before I headed down to the spinning bikes. It was great. I noticed that my sloshy tummy was getting firmer, and I loved the challenge of the spinning classes.
Then life intervened. In October, my three-year-old had a health crisis, and suddenly, my goal for the marathon was not to get a qualifying time for Boston, but instead just to make it to the finish line. I still ran four days a week, but my cross-training and strength training went right out the window.
A few weeks later, I got injured. It was a strained hamstring-- nothing too serious. Nothing I couldn't run through, at least. Then I ran the marathon. As I predicted, I finished, but I didn't do as well as I had hoped back when I set my original goal. My parents met me at the finish line and drove me home. When I got there, I could hardly walk. Once the inital soreness that every first-time marathoner goes through wore off, I realized that I had hurt my knee. For a couple of weeks I babied it, then I decided it was time to get back to my schedule (I had a goal to reach, after all, which meant another marathon, post haste!).
I've never been much of a strength-trainer. If I'm going to be in the gym, I want to be doing cardio. I want to be burning those calories, dangit! And frankly, the thought of going into the weight room really scares me. All of those muscle-bound guys who know what they're doing, and me, who has no clue. I've done quite a bit of yoga, but the kind of yoga I've done has usually been of the prenatal variety, and the strength and flexibility benefit of prenatal yoga is probably roughly equivalent to touching your toes two or three times and taking a walk around the block.
And let's not even talk about my core. For years, my midsection was the part of my body that I pretended did not exist. I was always fairly broad through the rib cage, and having four babies in quick succession didn't help matters much. I usually did my best to hide it under lots of layers in slimming black.
Then, as I was recovering from my injury, the February issue of Runner's World arrived in my mailbox, with that beautiful picture of Josh Cox on the cover. I read the cover story, and this paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks:
"A strong core also helps address overuse issues. "If we don't have a strong center, other muscles have to stabilize us," says Toni Dauwalter, a physical therapist whose clients include 2004 Olympic 1500-meter specialist Carrie Tollefson. Over time, the extra work can lead to injury. Mahon cites a litany of problems relating to the lack of that steadying hand: patella tendinitis, piriformis syndrome, sciatica pain."
Overuse issues? That's exactly what I was suffering from (an IT band injury). The next morning, I was back at the gym, for the first time since October. Since that day, I've made it a priority to attend at least two abs classes a week. Some days, I can't get to the gym, and instead I'm doing pilates or yoga (not the goofy prenatal yoga) at home. Since I finally think I might be injury-free, it seems to be helping. And the side benefit? For the first time in memory, I have a decent-looking stomach. After years of hiding it under t-shirts at the beach, I think I might even show it off a little bit this summer.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Last night, Eddie was subbing for a scout leader, and I, by some miracle, had all three of the younger kids in bed and asleep. I sat down on the couch with my book and a bowl of ice cream and realized that the house was totally and completely silent. Then I realized how rare and beautiful the sound of silence is for a stay-at-home mom like me.
Right now, at 9:17pm, I can hear the BYU basketball game playing on the computer in the family room, Bryce is talking to himself upstairs as he falls asleep, the dishwasher is running, and I'm typing. From the moment I wake up and flip on the news to check the weather report, to the moment I go to bed at night, to the sounds of Letterman or SportsCenter entertaining my hubby, it's never quiet. With four kids, someone is always talking/ laughing/ fighting/ crying/ squealing/taunting/ instructing/ lecturing/ whining. We tend to be overconsumers of media in all its forms, and I'll leave the radio on, tuned to NPR, all day long.
My brother and sister and I all grew up and moved away, my mom frequently complained to me that she found the house to be "too quiet." Right now, with lots of people constantly and loudly vying for my attention, I don't think there can be such a thing as too quiet.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Most definitely cake. Preferably chocolate, made from scratch, with chocolate frosting and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Title: The Field Guide (Spiderwick Chronicles)
Author: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Mallory, Simon and Jared Grace move from their city apartment to an old house in the country inhabited by fairies.
My kids saw a bunch of previews for The Spiderwick Chronicles movie when they were at the theater over Christmas break. I told them that if they wanted to see the movie, they had to read the book first. So we read the first book in the series, finishing on Wednesday night. It became pretty evident in the waning chapters of the book that the movie would have to include more material than what was written in those 100 pages. I did some research and discovered that the movie is based on all five books in the series. But a promise is a promise, and we went to the movie on Saturday. The material in the first book was covered in about five minutes, and the remaining 92 minutes were a lot scarier than I had anticipated (I was glad I didn't have Isaac with me). Bryce and Annie (when they weren't hiding their eyes) loved the movie, and have been fighting over who gets to read book 2 at bedtime. For me, the first book was enough. It's very cute and magical and all that, but I'd rather read books for grownups.
Title: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Author: Diane Ackerman
The story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan, director of the Warsaw Zoo just prior to World War II, and how they saved the lives of hundreds of Jews by hiding them in the zoo during the war.
Antonina Zabinski's story is remarkable. She was a fairly average upper-middle class wife and mother, going about her life on the grounds of the Warsaw Zoo, taking care of her son and her animals. When Warsaw was bombed, the majority of the surviving animals were appropriated by various German zoos. That left a lot of empty cages, and a lot of hidden corridors. Jan, a leader in the Polish resistance, risked his life and his family to help save hundreds of Jews, and Antonina kept the home fires burning and tried to maintain morale. Even though the story is amazing, It seemed that Ackerman felt the need to put every bit of her research into the book. It would have been better if it were tighter and about 100 pages shorter.
Title: Here if You Need Me
Author: Kate Braestrup
When Kate Braestrup's husband, a Maine State Trooper, died in an on-the-job car accident, she fulfilled his dream of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister, eventually working as a chaplain for the game wardens.
I loved this book! It's short and easy to read, but it shows how a woman and a family who are mourning the man they love (she writes so beautifully and painfully about losing her husband and the first days after his death), turn to helping others, and in the process, heal themselves. It's not cheesy at all, and her story is tragic enough that it definitely could have disintegrated into Velveeta pretty easily. Instead, Braestrup writes frankly and self-deprecatingly and intelligently about her work, her family, and her own spiritual conversion process. It would be a great book group book. I found myself putting myself in her shoes (she had four kids ages 9,7,5 and 3 when her husband died, so it wasn't too much of a stretch) and hoping that I'd be able to handle my trials with as much humor and grace as she does.
Title: Interred With Their Bones
Author: Jennifer Lee Carrell
Shakespeare scholar and director Kate Stanley finds herself on a hunt for Shakespeare's lost play, Cardenio, and trying to stay alive in the process.
I think I expected too much of Interred With Their Bones. Since it was written by a Harvard scholar and a woman, I expected it to be a thinking woman's version of The DaVinci Code. But better, because it would be about Shakespeare. I loved the subject matter. I loved that a large portion of the book took place in the American Southwest, particularly at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, a place dear to my heart. But maybe my expectations were a little bit too high. Kate was awesome, but she still depended on guys to rescue her. Didn't Dan Brown already take us to the Poet's Corner? And did we ever figure out who Pearl was and how he found Kate in the first place? It's as good a read as DaVinci, but definitely in the same model, which made it feel somewhat less. Others compared it to The Thirteenth Tale, but if you had to read just one, I'd definitely go for The Thirteenth Tale. If you see it on the bargain table at Barnes and Noble and need a quick, interesting read for a vacation, I think it's worth it, but don't expect anything too groundbreaking.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Today was the first day of the rest of our lives. I was back in my regular side pew, nonwalking preschooler on one side, running toddler on the other, two (relatively well-behaved, for once) big kids down on the end of the bench. Eddie was up playing the organ and avoiding making eye contact with me. Isaac was nervous. Maren was crazy-- throwing crayons, drawing on the big kids' drawings, tossing her baby over the back of the pew about a million times.
For the next two hours I walked the halls with Maren. We wanted to stay close in case Isaac's Primary teacher needed help (quite the opposite of his preschool teacher, who didn't want him back in class lest she break him, his Primary teacher didn't want us in class, lest we mess up her routine). Sunday is my rest day from running and all things exercise, but I didn't feel like I got much of a break today.
I'm sure that in a few weeks, I'll have my stamina back and will be able to handle three-hour church with four kids without breaking a sweat. After church today, I took a nap for two hours.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Now I didn't think that after nine weeks on his back, he'd jump off the table, run down the hall, and we'd all live happily ever after. But I wasn't prepared for the fact that the first week out of the cast would be quite a bit harder than the last few weeks in the cast. He had adjusted pretty well to his limitations. He loved to spin, could crawl and do pushups, liked to pretend to be a dog or a caiman while eating his food, and had even figured out that he didn't need to be scared if he slept in a sleeping bag on the bedroom floor. I'd found him up as high as the third step on our staircase, and I'm pretty confident that he would have been scaling the stairs within another week. I was expecting that we'd bring him home, and within a week he'd be back at school and I could confidently leave him at the daycare at the gym. Not so, my friends, not so.
The day we brought him home, he didn't want us to touch either of his legs. Lifting him was excruciatingly painful. He was scared. We were scared that we were going to break him again. He had to start wearing clothes again, and it bugged him to take the clothes on and off to get him to the bathroom. The only good thing about the first cast-free day was his bath. Other than that, he was pretty darn miserable. Too scared to try to crawl. Too stiff to sit up. I think he felt like we had taken his security blanket away. For us as his parents, it was a pretty damn disheartening day.
Over the course of the week, things have slowly gotten better. By mid-week, he had learned to sit up again unassisted. On Thursday, he started crawling again (he's still not putting much weight on the broken leg, but it will get there). Yesterday we quit using the urinal and started forcing him to use the potty again. Today he was trying to climb down the stairs, working on that yoga pose (I think it's called the triangle), and crying while I forced him to sit by himself at the dinner table.
He still has a long way to go. We decided to pull him out of preschool for the rest of the year. The preschool made this an easy decision when we went in for a Valentine's Day party on Wednesday and asked when he could start again. They said they didn't want him back until he was walking without difficulty. Eddie and I are leaving a week from tomorrow for a long-anticipated, long-postponed tenth anniversary trip, and even though I'm leaving him with two people I trust completely and the two people who, aside from me and Eddie, probably know him best (my mom and my godmother), it's still really hard to leave him when he can't walk yet. The orthopedist said that we should expect it to take a month before he's ambulatory, and if he's not walking when we see him in March, we'll discuss physical therapy. I never imagined when he woke up with a sore leg on that October afternoon so many months ago that he still wouldn't be walking in March.
I'm sure that one day our lives will no longer revolve around Isaac's health. One day our prayers will not include the reflexive statments of "We're thankful for this day. We're thankful for our family. Please help Isaac's leg to get better." One day we'll look back on this time and realize it wasn't an eternity. But some days it feels like it. And the baby steps are so small, that it seems impossible that he'll ever be able to put one foot in front of the other again. We were watching a basketball game tonight and he said he wants to play basketball. Watching Bryce play soccer has always been just that-- watching him play soccer. When Isaac plays basketball, it will be watching a miracle.
Friday, February 15, 2008
One summer, also in high school, I enrolled in a dance camp with the Connecticut Ballet Theatre. It was several hours a day, four or five days a week. For the first few weeks, it was really fun. Then it got kind of hard. Then my knee started to hurt, and I realized that with an injury sidelining me, I could watch all of the other girls busting their butts, without actually having to do it myself. I even had my mom take me to an orthopedist, who looked at my knee, proclaimed that nothing was really wrong with it (I was hoping to need surgery, which would ensure me a guilt-free break for at least a couple of months), and sent me on my way.
So I guess what I'm saying is that when the going got tough for me, I used to fake injuries or fake sickness. I knew I could probably push myself harder, but it was an easy way to take a break when I couldn't mentally deal. Right now, I'm in a pretty good place mentally, as far as exercise goes. In fact, with everything that has been going on with Isaac, I've really needed the exercise and both the stress-relief and the accolades I get from it to keep me going with a smile on my face.
But as I've mentioned a few times over the last few weeks, my knee has been bugging me. It felt great during the half-marathon last Saturday, and then started hurting on Saturday night, leaving behind a nagging pain. On Monday I tripped over a bicycle helmet in the garage (yes, I was carrying Isaac, and thank goodness he is fine) and twisted my ankle, smacking it into the concrete of the garage floor. It bled and swelled up like a balloon. But it's fine. Well, mostly fine. It's still too swollen to fit into a running shoe.
So I rested. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. This morning, I went swimming. I hate being injured, really hate being injured twice over (three times if you count the sore hamstring), and especially hate the fact that the injury falls at a time that will likely make it impossible for me to do the full marathon at Country Music in April. But over the last few days, I've come to appreciate a few things. This time, I'm not faking it. I'd be out there if I could. I probably should have rested six weeks ago, but I couldn't bring myself to "wimp out" enough to do it. I've also mentally adjusted to the idea that I won't become a gordita overnight, even if I miss three days in a row of exercise. And in a couple of weeks, when I come back recovered from all of my injuries, I am going to be invincible.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
1) Consider Your Audience
I've been blogging for several years, but about a year ago, I came out to the people who know me in real life when I put a link to my blog in my email signature. Suddenly my aunts and cousins and godmother were emailing me about things I had written in my blog. Friends in town would refer to things I knew I'd written about, but I hadn't ever talked with them about. It was kind of eerie. Over the next few months, I realized that my writing changed. I could no longer complain about how my mother is ruining my life (not that she is, at least not right now) or about how much I hated the dreaded preschool co-op (not that I'm in it anymore). My grandma wanted to see pictures of my kids, so I gave her pictures of my kids. But people who come to my blog for reading and running ideas don't want too see too much of my four favorite smiling faces. So I feel a need to find a balance for all of my audiences. Gone are the days when I can whine and obsess for four months about trying to get pregnant, but I like the feedback from a real audience instead of just a virtual one.
2) Write when you don't feel like writing
Today, I'll admit, I don't feel much like writing. My knee is still bugging me. Isaac still isn't walking. It's 10:18am and I'm sitting in my pajamas. Eddie worked all night last night, which means that he'll be a fantastic romantic partner for Valentine's Day this year. At times like this, when I just want to complain, sometimes I feel like I'd rather not write (in the old days of the blog, when I didn't think people I knew would read it, I didn't care so much about complaining). But in order to keep an audience and in order to keep up the habit, it's still good to write every once in a while when you don't feel like it. Sometimes you'll be surprised and realize that your juices really get flowing once you park your butt in the chair. Other times, well, other times you might not feel so inspired. But don't give up.
3) Strike a balance between finding your unique voice and making your writing readable
My dad has commented several times that he hates to read my writing. "It's so casual," he complains. I know, I break a lot of rules. I start too many sentences with "and" and "but." I split my infinitives. I use way too many exclamation points and tend to overload the parentheses. But (see, I'm doing it!), I like to write this way. In my blog, I want to sound conversational, so my writing, for the most part, mimics the way I talk. However, I also think that the basics of capitalization, paragraphing, spelling and punctuation go a very long way in making a blog readable. I am guilty of not proofing as closely as I should (I often don't proof at all), but I try to make sure that I don't turn away my audience with a jumble of words that takes so much energy to find the meaning that they get lost.
I'd like to pass this award along to three of my favorite bloggers who are all prime examples of how my real and virtual worlds have collided in the last year. I knew all three "in real life" before I knew them as bloggers, and I've loved getting to know them better through their writing:
Lyn from Greetings From Texas-- I love Lyn's blog because she does what I aspire to do-- make my mommy blog more than just a mommy blog. She's got it all in Greetings from Texas-- family journal, delicious recipes, discussions of thought-provoking articles, as well as some random thoughts.
Courtney at 5 Under 5. Courtney has done a great job of creating personas for her children in her writing. I really feel like I know her five little ones. She's also a much better photographer than I am!
Sarah at Sarah's Quilt. Sarah and I bonded over reading, and she's one of the few people I know who reads as much as I do and whose book recommendations I really trust. She's also mastered the balance of how to talk about her kids in a positive way without bragging. And she's just about to have a baby, so maybe this will distract her.
And finally, if you want to read wickedly funny, intelligent mommy blogging, go back to the source and read Cyl's.
Monday, February 11, 2008
See the wet hair? He had his first bath in two months! Doctors say it might be up to a month before he walks again, and there's a possibility he may need surgery down the road to lengthen the femur, but getting the cast off is the first step (get it?) in the right direction.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Every good cake decorator needs an apron
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I did the Surfside Half Marathon this morning. I had really, really low expectations for the race, considering that I've been hurt for six weeks and hadn't done a training run longer than 10 miles. As I was walking up to the registration area, I ran into my stake president, who is my age, lives in my neighborhood, and is the husband of a good friend. Anyway, he said he was shooting for a 1:45 and if I wanted to, we could run together. So we did, for the first five miles, when he told me I was too fast and I broke away. It was a gorgeous race! The entire thing was on the sand, three miles in one direction, six and a half in the other, then three and a half more in the first direction. After I left Jon behind, I just kept passing people. It felt so good not to hurt! The race tends to be kind of slow, because the sand slows you down (30 seconds to a minute per mile, according to those in the know).
Anyway, I finished at 1:45.03. I was the second woman overall, and about the 12 or 15th runner overall, I'm guessing. I got interviewed for the paper and got a really cool glass plate for the second place finisher, lol. They had a big bbq afterwards, and if I hadn't been so worn out and kind of sick feeling, I think I would have enjoyed it. Actually, it's the first time I've felt like I really loved running during a race in I don't know how long. Usually I love the training, but hate the racing. The two main guys organizing the race afterwards pulled me aside and asked me who I trained with. When I told them "my jogger and my treadmill" they said I needed to have a coach and a training group, because they thought I would benefit from it.
Anyway, sorry to be a braggart, but I'm still on a high. My knee felt great the whole time too, so that was really encouraging. But, as always when I finish a half, I couldn't fathom doing 13 more miles when I got to the finish line. Maybe the half marathon is really my distance.
The race is so beautiful on the beach too! If anyone wants to run it next year (they have a full marathon too) you know where you can stay!
Thursday, February 7, 2008
- Isaac goes back to the doctor in four more days and we hope he be broken free from his blue prison.
- Maren answers every question with "yeah."
- Annie is turning six on Saturday. She decided she wanted to have a cake decorating birthday party. I have six cakes in my freezer waiting for her to decorate with her brother and her friends (she could only invite three-- and even still, I think I'm a little bit crazy).
- Bryce's school had its big reading night last week. Bryce won the biggest prize of the night-- a new bike. Then the kids started to play bingo and Bryce was the first person to win at bingo too. Unfortunately his lucky winning streak didn't extend to the Pinewood Derby two days later. He's trying to learn to both win and lose with grace.
- Eddie's awesome nuclear rotation, where he only had to work one or two mornings a week, came to an abrupt end on February 1st. I don't think he's seen Maren since.
- I'm getting ready to run a half-marathon on Saturday morning. It's on the beach, and I'm just running it for fun and for the experience, not for a time. I keep having to remind myself of that. I also got my knee injury diagnosed and have been working on rehabbing it, so this race should be a good litmus test for whether or not I'll be healthy enough to run the marathon in April.
- Only seventeen days until we go to Mexico! Not that I'm counting, or anything....
Title: Then We Came to the End
Author: Joshua Ferris
Workers at a Chicago ad agency try to keep their jobs through an economic downturn.
This novel made me really, really glad I don't work in an office. Though Ferris did a great job of creating characters, the novel, as a whole, didn't move me. I thought of it as a strange mix of The Office (same zany kinds of office workers, and Tom Mota is a dead-wringer for Dwight Schrute) and Tova Mirvis's wonderful novel The Ladies Auxiliary, in the sense that both use an unidentified first-person plural as the narrator. While I felt like the narrator enhanced the story in The Ladies Auxiliary, it really bugged me in Then We Came to the End. After reading so many really good books in a row, this one was quite a letdown.
Book #10: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Title: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Author: A.J. Jacobs
AJ Jacobs spends one year growing a beard, wearing white and trying to follow all of the rules of the Old and New Testaments, all while living in Manhattan, maintaining his day job, raising a young family, and searching for faith.
Whoa nelly, all I have to say is that Julie, Jacobs's wife, is a saint. Jacobs admits that even before the biblical experience, he was kind of a weird guy (he elaborates on his many OCD tendencies), but I'm guessing Julie didn't know that she'd spend the year pregnant with twins and married to a crazy-bearded, robe-wearing freaky dude. At the beginning of his experiment, Jacobs went through the Bible, wrote down all of the rules, and tried to live as many of them as possible. He also studied the Bible intensely for the year, and consulted several religious advisors. He writes the book in monthly chapters, and in each chapter, takes on a different aspect of the Bible (creationism, for example). He begins the year as an agnostic, a Jew in name only, and ends as some sort of a faithful, hopeful believer. It's an interesting read-- and it makes me glad that I don't have to follow all of the rules of the Bible.
Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
The life story of Oscar Wao, a fat Dominican nerd who lives in Jersey, anguishes over the honeys, and tries to reconcile his complicated family history.
In many ways, this book reminds me of Absurdistan, which I read and reviewed last year. In both cases, the tone is light and filled with pop culture references, and the protagonist is an overweight misfit living in an immigrant community. But while Absurdistan left me feeling like I couldn't get into the jangly-cool of Misha's dialogue, Diaz made me feel like I knew Oscar. I read that the book is an immigrant saga for people who don't read immigrant sagas. And it's a good one.