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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I got into Chicago. Now what?

Recently my kids turned 3 and 5, I did my first trail race, turned 46 and got a surprise visit from my 21-year-old son. I'm still reading the same book I was two months ago, Finding the Dragon Lady.It's really good and I may even finish it some day. My house needs dusting and mopping, I need to get my bills and other important docs in order, register M-man for kindergarten, get some new running shoes, donate some stuff and figure out how my cat Reckless is able to drag a mylar balloon around by its string on all three floors of our house.

I only mention that last thing because he just wandered into the kitchen, with guess-what in his mouth. Who knew cats could do that?

But in all of this exciting news, I buried the lede: I got into the Chicago marathon.

Bring me some balloons, Reckless. Time to celebrate.

I actually don't want or plan to run Chicago, even though it's my hometown marathon. I've done it before. It costs $185. I threw up on I-80 last year about an hour after finishing the Omaha marathon. The idea of 26.2 miles of pounding on concrete is about as exciting as the April snowstorm that we got earlier this week. *meh*

What Chicago does is remind me that, um, I need to get my tail in gear about running and goals. I'm in a slump.

I did sessions of PT for my knee until the sessions ran out. I'm still doing my strengthening exercises and trying to get yoga in once a week. But things still feel wonky.

Therefore, my weekly running mileage is cat poo, maybe 20 miles a week at best.

My goal is still to do a 50K trail ultra this fall, after running a 25K last month that I just loved. I've figured out which race I will do.

Now I just need to find my mojo.

I will let the April 18 deadline to register for Chicago pass and find another way to spend that $185 I do not have lying around.

And while I'm catching up on housework and filing credit card statements, maybe I'll figure out my running plan for the year.

Or just read that book.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Happy 5th birthday, M-man

Yesterday my little guy turned 5.

And I barely had my act together. Thank goodness he is still too little to know how disorganized his mom is.

First, more about my little guy. This time a year ago, things were challenging. 

We had transitioned him to a Chicago Public Schools preschool after his private preschool threw him out. Though the school choice was a big improvement in their attitude toward M-man, we were still wrestling with pretty major behavioral issues. 

We had the former school's aching criticisms and demands weighing on us, like get a psychiatric evaluation done. (Ps they don't do those on 3-year-old kids. We checked.) We had behavioral advice from experts.

But we still felt like we were flying blind.

CPS gets a lot of knocks in this town.

But public school has been a godsend. His uber-kind teachers last year worked with us to get M-man an IEP evaluation. They did their best with him and were so nice and patient. 

As I've written about here before, he ultimately got one by the end of the last school year, with a "developmentally delayed" diagnosis that meant he was entitled to extra support in the classroom.

We got him into his current school, with a blended program of half IEP kids and half "regular" kids, and hoped for the best.

Fast forward to now, just a few months till the end of pre-k and the school year. 

I wouldn't say he's like a different kid. But definitely a lot has changed, for the better.

M-man was born somewhat of a little old man, my husband and I like to joke. He is very serious and skeptical. He still has quite the temper.

But, he's more, I don't know, "normal" for the lack of a better word. His outbursts are far more manageable. He is able to articulate his feelings in his big boy words. He's a lot of fun.

Today we held his birthday party. Friends came to the house and it was a gorgeous, fun day.

Last weekend, at a classmate's party, and again this weekend, we got to see some other IEP kids in his class for the first time.

You can just tell. The kid who is playing along like any other kid, and suddenly it's time for cake, or something else, and they flip out. I saw it at the birthday party we were at last weekend, when the adorable birthday boy suddenly ran away from the cake, freaked out, and I talked to another mom today about her son, another classmate of M-man's.

She, too, never got an exact diagnosis of what "it" was with her son, just like M-man. She said that her son had matured so much in preschool and was doing so much better than a year ago. Again, just like M-man.

I didn't know any IEP kids/families before. I just knew M-man and his story.

But it was really comforting to know that these people I don't know have probably lived thru very similar challenges. It was comforting to know that M-man was not alone, that he wasn't the only kid who struggled the way he did.

And it was also comforting to once again realize just how far he's come.

Sometimes I feel like I'm regressing into this incredibly, uncharacteristically disorganized, slightly crazed mom.

The night before M-man's birthday, I bought all of his presents. I got up at 5 a.m. the day of his birthday and baked cupcakes and wrapped presents.

I'm never this behind the ball. I fret about it, and then talk to my mom friends and am reminded we're all crazed. And it's OK.

It's nice to know we're not alone, no matter what age or stage of life we're in.

Today and again tonight at bedtime, he told me "I really liked my party, mommy." He probably wouldn't have done that a year ago.

I'm still smiling.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Turning 46

Last week was busy, with lots of happy things going on. My little M-man turns 5 this Friday and we're hosting a party for him. 

Last weekend I turned 46 and was lucky to be surrounded with my family, including my oldest son, who surprised me Saturday morning in my kitchen by casually strolling in and saying "happy birthday, mom". 

I, naturally, started bawling, I was so happy.

We had such a great weekend. Even as my work phone buzzed and rang all weekend, it was all good.

Not far from us, another family we know faced a terrible tragedy. A friend from college lost her husband, a cheerful, healthy-looking guy who everyone liked. A dad of two who coached baseball. He, too, was 46.

No one should have to be a widow so young. When I think of what has been taken away from her and her grade-school-age kids, it makes me a little angry about why they will have to suffer. They are kind, good, decent people. 

They especially stand out in a world that seems to become more vitriolic the older I get. 

She is surrounded by family and friends--based on the hundreds of people who filled a snaking line out of the visitation yesterday. 

I wish I could think of something truly helpful to say or do. 

It's so unfair.

After the visitation we took the kids to an ice-skating birthday party for one of M-man's friends.

My kids had never ice-skated. It was slow-going and they did great. Dad and I did okay, too! 

As I was on that ice, I thought about Kerri  a lot. 

I promised myself that I would hug my husband a little more. Be nicer. I'm not a warm and fuzzy person but I could try more.

After all, you just don't know how long we get on this planet.

Last night we were pulling together our stuff to get our taxes done. Of course I was grouchy, as was he, and we bickered. 

And then we argued some more about money. (Tell me that there are couples who don't argue during tax season. I will point at you and laugh hard.)

As I ran this morning, I thought of Kerri again. And kicked myself a little for losing my resolve to be nicer. 

So I picked up his shirts from the cleaners and put a load of his laundry in.

My friend buried her husband today. I'm so grateful to have a husband to do these things for.

And yes, even to bicker over money with.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"About as bad as it gets": 1st trail race, a race report

This about pretty much sums up the 15 miles we ran. Fun, right?Actually, it was.

I did my first trail race yesterday, the Paleozoic 25K/50K. I ran the 25K, figuring that was plenty to chew off for my first trail race. I had awesome running buddies Janelle and Krista, some half-assed training and a slightly bum knee. Good to go!

The race was brutal. And awesome.


We drove down from Chicago to Palos Park Saturday morning, after a week of (finally) temps in the 40s and a big snow melt. The week prior, the race director had emailed us to say he'd run the course and it was "extremely difficult" and nearly all snow and ice. He said he normally has a no-refunds policy but he'd try to make accommodations, considering the wretched winter and the resulting trail conditions. By the time Friday, the day before the race, rolled around, it was 50-50 mud and ice.

My friends and I gulped hard. One bought trail shoes. One brought her Yaktrax to the race, just in case. Me? I forgot mine. Yes. I remembered chapstick but forgot Yaktrax. God. But there was no way I was going to miss this. I've been thinking about a trail race for awhile, including a trail ultra this fall.
About 50 runners wait for the 25K race to start. The 50K-ers had already started an hour earlier. This race is a far cry from the Shamrock Shuffle, which has 20,000+ runners for an 8K.

Before the race started, we sat in the car to keep warm and observed. Some dudes were duct-taping their shoes. Janelle, never, ever shy, jumped out of the car to chat them up. She learned that the tape helps keep them from falling off your feet if you get stuck in mud and something about keeping kind of dry. Or something like that.

Race buddies Krista and Janelle. Aren't they cute?
They were nice. In fact, the 50 or so people who ran the 25k were so nice and friendly. The 50K-ers started an hour ahead of us. Man, they are a hard-core lot. It was interesting people-watching. Trail runners are their own breed. I loved the vibe.

Finally it was race time. We were loopy with nerves and excitement. I decided I needed to carry Krista's Yaktrax with me, "just in case". She laughed at me while I tried to stuff these things in my jacket pocket. I am a dork.

(By the way, when the race director tells you it's 50-50 mud/ice, you're not going to put them on and take them off. Don't bring them with you. I got tired of carrying them pretty fast).

The race director and his wife were awesome. Down to earth, normal people who look like they lived outdoors a lot. They explained how the out-and-back course was marked -- orange paint with arrows each way. Yellow trail, purple trail, yellow trail, green trail -- turnaround was a buffet of snacks, candy and cookies, Gatorade and Mountain Dew, and then run on back.

And we were off, following little orange flags planted in soil that was soaked. Our feet were immediately drenched in mud and water. I thought, 15 miles of this?

(After the race, the race director told us the park district system almost shut down his race, because the course conditions were so bad. I suppose if an emergency responder had to get to someone who got hurt, it would be nearly impossible. He told us he did a lot of trail running and these conditions were about "as bad as it gets".)

The never-ending mud was only broken up by lots and lots of hard and slushy ice. In fact, that pretty much describes 90 percent of the course. It was brutal footing. Especially when you're wearing regular running shoes. Studying everyone around me, who obviously seemed to know what they were doing, everyone wore some pretty cool trail shoes, and some even wore strange bootie-like things over there shoes.

(The first time I stepped in mud so deep it almost pulled my shoe off my foot, I got it. Oh, that's why that guy wore a bootie over his shoe. We tied our shoes tighter.)

1.6 miles in, there was a huge upward climb. Let me tell you, when there is a huge hill with a lot of ice and mud, it is difficult to tell if it's going to be easier or harder to go up vs down. (Verdict: they both SUCK.) We did it, and no one fell. Whew.

Nearly the whole trail was some combo of ice and mud. It was exhausting to manage the footing. But it was so, so awesome running in such a serene environment. My friends and I talked about how tired we were of crowded road races with lots of people and noise.

We hit puddle after puddle, a ton of ice, stepped in frigid streams. I fell once, but the soft ground made it no big deal. I loved it, I was so happy to be out in the woods. It was so quiet and peaceful. No cowbells, no people, just us, breathing and concentrating on our footing. The air was amazing.

About mile 4 we hit a bog, at least what I think a bog is like. We ran way around it, but unfortunately hit it on the way back. We walked through freezing water that was mid-calf high. OMG it was so cold. I had rocks and mud in my shoes nearly the entire run.

But the worst was the "green trail" which is the trail closest to the turnaround, and what the race director had called "wilderness". The footing was even more treacherous and we struggled even more. Hills, up or down, were sometimes walked out of sheer necessity, especially on the way back. I've never run in anything so challenging before.

But there were so many great things about facing those challenging conditions. Like, all of the other runners, including the folks doing ultras, saying hi and telling us "good job." The guy who stopped and held out his hand to help me get my footing. My friends, who were just awesome and who stuck with me. The Ritz crackers at the turnaround and the nice woman, Jennifer, who kept everything stocked. I remembered her from the days I used to do the "Chick Night" runs at our local running store. We chatted. And the friendly cops stationed at the few highways that ran through our course.

At the turnaround. Look at the yummy snacks to the left.

I finished the race is 3:42:10, smiling and arms up in the air. It felt so great to just run a race, and not race. It was so nice to not feel like throwing up or to give a crap about my time. It was the most pressure-free race I can remember. It was the first time I can remember feeling happy when I finished, instead of feeling like crap.

The runners doing the 50K have to run that loop I had just done twice. Once was plenty for me. I dove into the cooler for a Mt. Dew. I never drink Mt. Dew but it tasted so amazing, as did the cookies and orange slices.

We got cold pretty quickly -- it was cloudy and the temps barely flirted with 40 degrees -- so we headed back to the car, where we all pretty much had to strip down in the parking lot and change, we were so muddy and wet. Whoever was in the Palos Park police car may have gotten a little show, but we didn't care. It was so nice to be in warm, dry clothes.

I can't wait to do a trail race again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The slightly confused, occasionally defective mom

In the last week or so, the following kiddie milestones have occurred:

My little sweetpea turned 3 years old in a whirlwind of pink, princessy celebration. On the same day everyone else celebrated St Patrick's Day. She was a doll. We had so much fun.

My little M-man, who is staring down his 5th birthday in a couple of weeks, got a new big-boy bed, graduating to a twin from a toddler bed. He looks so little again in his new bed, sweetly curled up and softly snoring. 

And my 21-year-old, my man-child, called me to tell me he has sprouted his first gray hairs.

Good lord.

I was not prepared to hear that my son is old enough to have gray hair. Even if he is prematurely graying. I started dating his dad when we were 19 and 21, and his dad had a little gray then. I just forgot.

I am really, really lucky to get to raise another kid generation. But sometimes it is a little weird, a little unsteady, to straddle what feels like two parallel parenting worlds.

It's like I live 95 percent of my time in this world as a mom to young kids. Which makes me young. Me, young mom of young kids! Even though I am in my mid40s.

And then I get these sometimes-abrupt reminders that hey, I have an adult kid, too. Who, though he lives in another state, still need me sometimes. Even If it's just to tell me about gray hair.

Sometimes it's more than that, however. And I find myself dusting off figurative cobwebs in my head to figure out how to best handle grownup kid problems. Living in a world of preschoolers, snack and potty times, talking about our feelings and answering 100 "what's this" and "why, Mommy?" questions feels so very different and far away from talking to a grown child.

My oldest got himself into a bit of a jam recently. It was the kind of mess that he has to dig out of -- and from everything I can tell, he is dealing with it head-on. I am proud of him.

However, I struggled at time time with what to say to him. Yell at him because I was mad? Try to be the cool, understanding mom? Silent treatment?

Fortunately I happened to be visiting my awesome grandma and my wonderful aunt during this period, each of whom gave me good advice on how to constructively talk to him. 

And we did have a good talk, and many good ones since. He is a good person who made mistakes. We all do.

It bothered me, though, that I felt so clunky in talking to him. For Pete's sake, I raised him. Why did it feel so awkward?

Was I a defective mom?

Yesterday I went to our neighborhood school to do a kindergarten tour for M-man. It's the same school my oldest attended 4th thru 8th grade.

When I got to the front door and pressed the buzzer to get in, I began to cry. Not in a sobbing way, just in that quiet way that surprises you.

I hadn't been to this school since my big guy graduated eighth grade in 2007. 

I suddenly missed my now-grown boy badly, in that way that makes your chest ache a little.

But something else occurred. I didn't feel that that big parenting "gulf" I'd been feeling, the one that was nagging at me a little. I could clearly picture my then-little guy in his white-shirt and navy blue-pant Chicago Public Schools uniform, just as M-man wears now. Lots of good memories.

One of the long-time school administrators seemed to remember him. Another administrator handed me tissues. I'm sure I looked like a mess.

It was sure nice to feel like "mom" again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I am bossy

I am a little slow sometimes to catch on to trends. 

It's not my fault. I blame the herky jerky, "trending" hashtag planet we find ourselves inhabiting. 

It's exhausting.

Actually I'm not slow. I'm just busy, like most everyone else. That's a "b" word. A "b" word that is okay.

See, when all of this stuff started mushrooming about banning the "b" word (first spotted by me in Facebook, which pathetically is one of my daily news sources -- and I am an ex-journalist for crying out loud), it caught my eye right away.

I was like, yeah! Quit calling women bitches! Yeah!

Although the older I get, the less that label bugs me. Still it is hurtful and demeaning and assertive women should not be criticized for being bitchy just because they're not letting someone walk all over them.

Besides, when someone calls you bitchy for doing your job or fulfilling other responsibilities, they're the one with the problem, not you.

End of blog post.

Well, not just yet. A headline popped out at me the other day I realized the "b" word was the word "bossy". 

Cue that scratching noise that a turntable needle makes when suddenly dragged across a vinyl record.


Okay, I will concede that "bossy" isn't the nicest thing to say. And it's not nice to call people names.

But I've been telling my sister her whole life she is bossy. And she's just fine! (Right, sissy?)

And now you're gonna tell me not only is that wrong, there is a whole campaign about it?

And is my sister mad at me?

Let me tell you about being "bossy". Had I been bossier as a young woman, a whole lot would have been different. And better. I would have bossed a lot more losers out of my life and done so more quickly.

I would have been talked down to less. Not sexually harassed. Probably wouldn't have been scare to speak up about a lot of things.

Look, I get it. The "bossy" police aren't telling women to be less assertive. They just don't want others tearing down women who are strong and assertive. #banbossy is a gimmick to get the conversation started. Which it has.

Knowing I am wrong about stuff sometimes, I took this discussion on my run this morning and asked my running friends for their thoughts. They're all amazing and smart women. No wallflowers in that group.

Maybe it was the 4:30 am hour and they didn't feel like arguing with me, hehheh, but they agreed. 

We kinda like being called bossy. I boss people around all the time.

And it works a fair amount of the time.

It would have bugged me when I was younger. But everything bothered my paper-thin skin back then.

But now?

Call me bossy and I'll consider it a compliment. That means you're listening and hearing what I am telling you. 

And that I'm the boss. Woohoo!

But just in case... I better give my sister a call.

Friday, February 28, 2014

March onward! A diagnosis, new goals and an awesome find

Running has kind of sucked lately. And not just because of the wretched winter that seems to want to come along for the ride into March. Wah.

I finally made myself go back to the sports medicine doctor.

Syndrome: Pissy knee, perfectly matched with this pissy runner's mood. (See weather comment above.) Pain inside the right knee that used to happen after a run but now develops during a run and lingers for a long time afterward, despite icing and tiger balm.

Diagnosis: Runner's knee. In other words, your garden-variety runner injury.

Why? Weak glutes/core.

Wait a minute, this sounds familiar. God, will I ever learn.

So what, it's February. Upcoming races include a 25k trail in late March (please winter, go the eff away), a 10K probably at the end of April and a half in March (Green Bay?)

Plenty of time to get everything strong for warmer running. :-)


Goal in March: 20 mountain climbers each day. Good for overall strength and core. 

Recently I hit my neighborhood running store, armed with a Christmas gift card from my husband.

And I learned something.

Through years of winter running, I apparently was not using the best winter gear.

I usually wear this old tech-fabric turtleneck, a C9 fleece from Target and a windbreaker, with running tights, hat, neck protection of some kind and gloves.

The saleswoman told me my base layer was probably not the greatest. Yeah, she's a saleswoman. But I'm sweaty and cold after most runs, which sucks.

She introduced me to Icebreaker, which is a really thin, wool material. The price was high, and wool is usually not friendly to my skin.

But a good end-of-winter sale helped nudge my purchase of two pieces, a half zip and a long-sleeve fitted shirt.

I wore one of my pieces under clothes the other day. I was totally toasty! Awesome.

Can't wait to try one of them on my run tomorrow. Maybe it will distract from my knee.