Sunday, September 21, 2014

Every Day a Little Easier

I realized the other day that I haven't updated you on the Quinn vs. School situation lately and that the last you heard, things were rough. While Quinn is still emphatic about not being the kind of kid who enjoys school, every day is better than the last and he is, if not super incredibly happy to be going to school every day, at least not madder about going to his new school than he was about going to his old school.

This year, all students in our district ended up with email addresses, something that came as a surprise when one evening Quinn was laughing hysterically about the emails he and Sam were sending each other. I took a look at his account and noticed that he had been sending emails to a kid from his school, some kid I'd never heard of.


I mean, yeah, the email was something along the lines of "poooo00000ppp ha ha %^*^%#*@&#( meow meow cat," but he was communicating with a peer from his school so, you know, rock on wit yo bad self, Q-ball.

Fast forward to last week when Quinn was all excited to go to his new school's back to school picnic. Grabbing on to the fact that Quinn was excited about something about school, we ditched Sam's soccer practice, Alex came home from work early, and we all headed over to the picnic.

We weren't social butterflies or anything at the picnic, with my kids playing almost entirely with just each other, but they were happy. They played in the dirt and ran on the playground and found sticks.

“Take a picture of this stick, Mom. This is a good stick.”

They made Alex pull a hula hoop out of a tree near the playground and then Quinn hunted down the principal and gave it to her because "it belongs to the school." Then the principal had to carry the dirty hula hoop around all night. Good times.

Also, Quinn's reading teacher brought her dog, which, regardless of whether he can define any of this week's vocabulary words, he could write an essay on this dog and his quirks. So at least I know he's been paying attention to something in class.

So anyway, we know one family at the school and we were standing there talking to them when this other mom came up. Somehow it came up that her son was in fourth grade and then she mentioned his name and it was EMAIL KID!!!

Then Alex and I kind of made asses of ourselves, being all, "You're Email Kid's mom?! Is Email Kid here?! We're sooooo excited about Email Kid!" Then I made her give me her phone number.

I think we might have come across as desperate and a little overbearing.

But Quinn was all, "Email Kid is here? Where is he?" and then he ran off to see him and later he asked if he could have a playdate with him, so I'm okay with being overbearing and desperate because Quinn has a friend—or at least someone he talks to—at his new school and that's awesome.

We also have an EMT meeting (the meeting to decide if he is eligible for evaluation for an IEP or 504 plan) set up for the end of this month, at the school's instigation. Quinn is back to trying to be the first kid on the school bus instead of me having to shove him on board. And the other day I watched him walk down the street after bus drop off with another kid who lives down the street.

So we're feeling all right over here. I'm not saying that Quinn isn't ridiculously brave to set off every day in a world full of sensory assault—he most definitely is—but he keeps getting happier, and I will take that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Captain Clumsy and the 21K Race

I ran my very first half marathon last Sunday. And you know what?

I killed it.

Like, not just, "Oh, I ran a half marathon and I'm proud of myself," but "I fucking killed that race to the best of my motherfucking abilities."

You guys, I was so scared for that race. I never thought it would go as well as it did. I finished in 2:35:11, which is really a million years for many half marathoners, but for me? It was a motherfucking VICTORY.


Some details (which could take you as long to read as it took me to run the damn race):

The distance: I do a lot of math calculations when I run. I divide time by distance to figure out my pace, I add and subtract to determine how many miles I've run and how many I have to go, and sometimes I figure out what the distance I'm running is in kilometers. It keeps my mind busy and passes the time and miles. Or kilometers, whichever you prefer.

It was about mile five in last Sunday's race that I figured out that a half marathon is about 21K. I instantly forgot the answer, but I assure you that I did have it at one time. Also, Google can do the calculation in, like, a millionth of a second.

The Fear: Prior to running this race, I was scared to death. In fact, it had taken great courage and probably five or six trips to the registration page to even sign up for the thing in the first place.

Thirteen miles seems like a lot of miles when you're on the starting end of them.

That Fear continued through pre-race eavesdropping on thin people in running tights ("I've only run four times this week," "I'm using this as a training run for my marathon training") right up until the first couple of waves of runners had set off and I realized that if I didn't hit the porta potties, the next thirteen miles would become increasingly uncomfortable. Fortunately, after the race has started, there are no lines for the bathrooms and I was able to pee and get back in the corral before my wave (the last one) was released.

Once I started running, the Fear dissipated. That is the great thing about racing. Once you're in it, you're in it and even though I was well aware of how brave I'd been to register and force myself to show up that morning, after the start line the Fear goes away. I spent the next .74 miles without any fear at all.

The Captain Clumsy part: So, I ran 13.1 miles all in a row, but I did it in probably the ugliest way possible. I was three-quarters of a mile in when I fell flat on my face, toes to nose on the asphalt. Seriously, people, it was like I was diving for first base.

Frankly, considering how packed in all the runners were at the time, it is a MIRACLE that I didn't take down a bunch of other people with me. As you know though, I jumped right back up. Then I spent the next half mile trying not to visibly cry because, Christ. Really?

You may be thinking, "Oh, well, at least she got that out of the way early on so she could get down to business and run the rest of the race without being a complete buffoon."

How wrong you would be.

Fast forward to mile 12.6. I trip on a rock and do another nosedive to the ground, this one coupled with a slight roll to the side. I popped up, assured the two nearby runners that I was fine and had, in fact, already fallen once in the race and set off running again.

Then I realized that even though I felt fine, every time I inhaled, I made an involuntary gasping sound. I kept running, going over possible reasons for this weirdness. This is what I came up with: (1) I was in some sort of shock and was panicking, (2) I had somehow inhaled a chunk of gravel and it was busy killing me, or (3) the wind had been knocked out of me.

I stopped to walk and concentrated on taking slow breaths. A few seconds later the gasping stopped and I continued on my way.

It is quite obviously awesome to be me.

The injuries: Fortunately, other than some bruising, abrasions, and a big chunk of skin that ripped off of the palm of my hand, I escaped from my falls unscathed. This is fortunate, because I was already facing down enough aches and pains—a trifecta of injuries, if you will.

The hip injury: Remember my hip injury from last year? Well, it's on the other side now. I'm steadfastly ignoring it.

The wonky knee: This isn't actually a running injury. I have a wonky knee. It's been wonky for a long time and it actually feels better when I run than when I don't. A couple of weeks ago, I sat on a couch with my knee tucked under me the wrong way and ever since it has hurt to do such strenuous things as walk up or down stairs. Fortunately, (1) there are no stairs in (most) half marathons and (2) "resting" by not running and going to Disney World instead seemed to have let it get a lot better. I am encouraged that ice and rest obviously helped so much.

It isn't completely healed though, as I discovered when I could feel it slowing me down on some of the uphills. Not a lot, but there's definitely something going on there.

The peroneal tendonitis: This is what my doctor called it. He said it was painful, but not harmful, which pleases me because I don't care if it hurts (see: hip); I just don't want my ankle to blow out. I went on a five-mile run last week and it fucking hurt. Like, I'm tough, but damn. I was worried that bad things were going to happen to it on Sunday.

I made sure to stretch and loosen it before the race and I KT taped it as well. I was not just happy, but astonished that it didn't hurt even a little bit during the whole 13 miles. Honestly, it was a little weird. But I'll take it.

The pace: I'm still not a super fast runner, but I'm getting faster. I even ran a 5K this summer at a 10:30 minute pace, but there is a big difference between 3 miles and 13. My speed tends to drop off dramatically after a few miles. That is why I was so surprised to finish with an average 11:51 minute/mile pace.

Honestly, I was hoping to finish this race just ahead of the official 12:26 minute/mile cutoff pace. I just didn't want to be swept off the course because I wasn't running fast enough. Never would I have imagined running an 11:51 pace. The best average pace I'd allowed myself to hope for in this half marathon was maaaybe12:20.

I remember passing 10 miles well under two hours and marveling that I'd covered that distance nearly 15 minutes faster than when I ran my ten-miler in early March.

I have no idea how that happened.

Actually, I do. It probably has a lot to do with the hundreds of miles I've run this year. That's probably how it happened. But still. It was surprising.

The mood: Somewhere around mile four, my stomach started to hurt. I was really bummed out because no other part of me was sad. My feet didn't hurt, my legs weren't tired, and my mind wasn't fatigued. Happily, the stomach pangs went away after about a mile and I spent the rest of the run feeling pretty damn good.

I'm not sure what helped me run these thirteen miles in what felt like the most effortless long run I've had in a long time. I think it helped that the course is familiar as well as pretty flat/downhill, but I was prepared to be in pain and I never really got there. I somehow managed to fuel exactly right with the Gatorade and water stations set up every two miles and a few energy chews I'd stuffed in my waist pack. I didn't spend the majority of the race thinking about how far I still had to run, something that often happens.

Everything came together perfectly.

I'm not saying this race was easy. It was a lot of running and there were points when I wanted to stop and walk (but didn't!), but I was really proud of the way I managed it. Maybe someone can tell me why I could do this race, but it is so goddamn hard to run three continuous miles on a treadmill.

The cheerleaders: One of my lower points came at around mile nine. I was tired and the distance I still had to cover was just long enough to be a little bit demoralizing. The thing that kept me going was knowing that my family was coming to cheer me on just before mile ten. My family rarely makes it out to races, so having them on the course was a big deal.

"I can run to my family," I told myself. "I can run to my family. I can run to my family."

I knew where they were going to be standing and once I was close enough, I strained my eyes looking for them. I was so happy to see my babies jumping up and down with hands out for high fives. "HI, BABIES!" I called, slapping hands and smiling so big. I felt really special having a cheering squad out there. I don't think they have any idea how far their presence carried me.

Standing just past my kiddos was Alex. And he had chosen to wear the shirt I had bought for him at Disney World. This shirt:

How super cute is Alex?

I had my mantra for the next three miles.

I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable.

And I was.

The finish: At some point I realized that I was on track to finish in under two hours and thirty-six minutes, which was, like, a super stretch goal. The desire to beat that time kept me going through that last terrible mile. Ugh. That last mile. It sucked. I think that is the nature of last miles, but let's be honest here, mine was particularly gruesome what with my unplanned trip to the gravel less than a half mile from the finish.

It was all worth it when I crossed that finish line though. I feel really proud of myself. Since starting to run again a couple of years ago, I've done a lot of things that I'm proud of, but this one felt really good. It feels like a real accomplishment. I feel brave and strong and proud. It feels great.

I also earned a beer glass that unfortunately came without beer, a situation I was able to rectify.


The conclusion: Guess what guys? Turns out I'm unstoppable. And a little bit of a dunce. But mostly the unstoppable thing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Will Celebrate My Triumphant and Exhausted Return From Disney WorldWith a Gerbil Video

I have returned from Disney World. We had a blast. I took a million photos. I will be blogging nonstop about it once I am able to sit down and catch my breath. This will be sometime after I run my first half marathon tomorrow. God only knows how long after.

I do have something fun for you today though. A while ago I had mentioned the stamping that my gerbils do to warn each other of danger and how adorable it is. Several of you expressed interest in seeing a video of said stamping. Since then I have spent countless hours sitting quietly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone ready to record whenever they became alarmed.

They never became alarmed.

So then I sat loudly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone and making large arm gestures and startling whooping noises.

I think they rolled their eyes at me.

I did, however, finally manage to capture some stamping a couple of weeks ago. It's not the best stamping, because the best stamping happens when a gerbil stands on two legs to stamp and the guy in this video was far too lazy to do that, BUT it is also extremely awesome because you get to see exactly what was alarming to the gerbil.

It's 17 seconds long and there is sound, but it is almost entirely the soft sounds of a stamping gerbil followed by the creak of my chair.

In case you chose not to watch it, the alarming thing was a cat, who just happened to be licking her lips when I caught her on camera.

I'll see you later; I've got some hydrating and sleeping to do. And carb loading. Lots and lots (and lots) of carb loading.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guess What Time It Is?


Algernon got to go to Disneyworld, so now Chester gets a turn.

Nobody tell my kids that they are in line behind two stuffed mice.

My friend Heather and I are going back to Disneyworld, no kids included. This is actually harder than it sounds because I not only had to get myself ready to go out of town, but I had to get my entire family ready to survive without me. Thank goodness Heather is around to plan everything for everybody. Seriously. If not for her, instead of planning a trip to Disney starting Thursday, I'd be planning a trip to the grocery store—and I'd be doing it badly too.

Wish my family luck. Wish Heather and me a good time. Keep an eye on Chester's adventures on Stimeyland's Facebook page. See you early next week.

Electric Fun

I regularly ask my kids if they want to go running with me. They very rarely do.

See, I remember how much I hated running when I was a kid and how I never really participated in sports until I started running in my late 20s—and then took a decade-long break from even that after Jack was born. I would love to get my kids past the hating running stage into the tolerating or even loving running stages well before that.

Every once in a while I can get someone to run along with me, motivated by the challenge of being able to run soooo much faster than I can. I've been working on Sam lately, with little success, but when Certifikid offered me a couple free tickets to last weekend's Electric Run (think glow sticks, illuminated course decorations, and lots of peppy music on a night course), I thought that I might just be able to convince him to take on three point one miles with me.

He totally fell for it.

I chose Sam for this run because I decided that he was the kid most likely to (a) be able to finish the race and (b) not disappear into the darkness of the crowd.

I love to run races, although I prefer to run straight-up timed events rather than the more gimmicky 5Ks that you see all over these days. When Certifikid (a fantastic deals site with family-friendly offers) offered me those tickets though, I flashed back to the Color Run I did where I'd wished that I had one of my kids with me to make the experience more fun.

See, these races aren't timed and aren't about getting a PR. They're about going out with your family or friends and having a good time while getting some exercise in. I've done a few of them and even though my love is a regular, timed race, every once in a while it is fun to join in on a silly, themed race.

Especially, I found out last weekend, if you're running with your kid.

Quick disclosure aside, followed by promotional stuff: Certifikid gave Sam and me free entry into the Electric Run. If you're looking to do a fun, easy race with your kids (or even without!), check out Certifikid. They have a bunch of race deals coming up (the Graffiti Run, the Rock N' Stroller, and the Blood and Guts Run, all in October) and they add deals on races all the time. If those three don't sound like the run for you, check back later because chances are they'll have a deal on one that is more your speed. Sign up to get their emails for your city or keep checking their site and you can get a great deal on a fun run.

So, the race. You know when you have a 12-almost-13-year-old and they're the most fun in the world except when they flip a switch and become cranky tween/teens and you never know which one of those kids is going to show up? Well. It turns out that Racing Sam is Super Delightful Sam.

This is his patient and blurry “I’m putting up with my mom face.”

We had so much fun. We got to the race site and picked up our packets, then festooned ourselves with various glowy things and headed off to the start line where I embarrassed Sam by taking lots of photos of MY BABY AT HIS FIRST RACE!

It is hard to take decent photos in the dark.

The thing is, I don't even think I embarrassed him that much because everyone else was just as goofy as we were. There was so much fun to look at and we didn't even have to wait too long because for once in my life, I timed our arrival almost exactly right.

When it was our turn to go, it took us a while to break out of the crowd enough to actually run, but when we did, Sam delighted in sprinting ahead of me, then walking until I caught up, then sprinting ahead of me again, shouting back, "THAT is how fast you run?"

Don't worry. Revenge was mine in terms of stamina. I can outrun the kid. It just takes me a while.

Eventually Sam sort of tired out and it occurred to me that it was kind of mean to drag the kid to a race without having him train at all. (Although he ran longer than he ever has before. Go, Sam!) Regardless, it was still fun because there was a lot to look at and enjoy as we strolled the rest of the course. Plus—bonus!—if your kid has nowhere to go because he has to walk a mile and a half with you, he's going to have to talk to you.

So awesome.

Plus...giant gummy bears.

I kind of want one of these for my back yard.

Sam was a champ. He ran or walked the whole course and when we got to the finish line, he pointed to my right, yelled, "Look! A cat!" and when I looked, he sprinted off to cross the finish line first. Jerk. :)

During the run, he was a little jealous of people who had these big foam glow sticks, so I was going to buy him one for being such a good sport about the whole thing. But then—and here is where you see that cheapness is apparently more important to me than hygiene—I looked into a trash can as we walked by and saw two glowing sticks just sitting there on top.


I was even honest with Sam about where I got them and he was okay with it. Dumpster diving can be a family activity too.

Gimmick or not, race as cash cow or not, Sam and I had a blast and I am so happy we did this together. I totally recommend you do one of these races with your kids. They definitely can be pricey, so finding a deal (Certifikid, anyone?) is a great idea. There are any number of themed races to choose from, depending on what you and your kids are into and like.

I'm just happy that Sam and I got to be together to engage in a non-stressful, totally fun athletic activity—one that I think he will definitely remember. I am so very proud of him for sticking out the whole 3.1 miles (and the endless walks to and from the car) and I'm so glad for the time I got to spend with him.