Friday, June 29, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:48 Loud

Every summer I look forward to, and dread, the sound of the cicadas.  It's one true sign that summer is really here.  At first, their din is calming and reassuring.  It isn't long, though, before we struggle to hold conversations outside at night because the sound is almost deafening.  For such useless, irrelevant bugs, they sure as hell are LOUD!

I like to watch TV when I go to bed.  I catch the 9:00 news, maybe some Real Housewives, and if I can stay awake long enough, maybe some Tonight Show.  In the winter, it's not a problem for me to hear the TV.  I do have Tinnitus, though, and when it's bad, I do have to turn the volume up a smidge.

In the summer, I like to keep the windows open as much as I can, especially at night.  I prefer fresh air to the air conditioning when it's not super humid and temps are below 90.  I keep a fan in the window to bring in the overnight cool air, and it feels so good to sleep in a room that's got that little bit of summer night chill.
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The fan offers some nice white noise, sometimes drowning out the cicadas, sometimes just adding another layer of noise.  Thus, the TV volume must go up.  The kids have music playing in each of their rooms at night, adding yet another layer of sound.  Seems that by the time I get settled in bed, I've got the TV volume so high, I have trouble falling asleep because it's blaring at me!  If I'm having a particularly bad spell with the Tinnitus, that's it!

There are so many sounds of summer that I look forward to every year, like lawn mowers, cicadas, sprinklers, and kids outside playing.  Sometimes, though, when you put them all together, it's really LOUD!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Soldier Field 10 Mile

Two days after the 3.5 mile race was the Soldier Field 10 Mile.  I signed up for this race long before I got hurt, and I wasn't about to miss it.  My first 10 mile race was not going to be sat out!  I got the chance to run with my running friend again, whom I'd also done the Shamrock Shuffle with earlier in the year.  I love running with her, and in this case, we were both aiming to finish, not to meet or beat a specific time.  We pace well together and keep each other motivated, and it's wonderful being able to run with her.

She picked me up at the break of dawn as it began to mist and drizzle.  We weren't quite sure what we were going to be in for, as the forecast called for cloudy skies with rain until race time.  It started to rain on our way to the city, but, eased up by the time we parked at Soldier Field.  We got a choice spot in the parking structure adjacent to Soldier Field, a very short walk to the stadium.  Score!  As we walked around trying to get our land legs and figure out where everything was situated, we ran into a few familiar faces and friendly greetings.  We got the lay of the land, decided what gear to keep on our persons and what to check in gear check, and made our way to the starting line.

The sky was cloudy.  There was a cool breeze.  The breeze turned cold at times.  Then, the dark clouds rolled in.  As my girlfriend and I stood in our starting corral, we began to chat with some of the runners around us.  At times, we'd turn back to talk to the people behind us.  I distinctly recall turning around and seeing a black shelf in the sky behind them to the north of us.  Talk about striking fear!  We're about to run this race!  The cool breeze and cloudy skies are fine, but, rain!?!?  Sure, a nice rain when it's hot keeps you cool, but it wasn't warm, and those clouds weren't carrying just a little rain.  That was a storm!

We continued to monitor the progress of the clouds, seeing them move closer and closer to us as the start time approached.  It drizzled a little.  We felt actual drops fall from the sky.  Oh no!  Thankfully, the drizzle ceased before the starting gun, and the breeze helped keep us cool as we ran.  To our good fortune, it was a tail wind on the way south for the first five miles.  It remained cloudy throughout the race, which was a blessing.  Those first five miles were pretty good.  A couple of my teammates, injured and unable to run the race, were there taking pictures, and it was nice to see familiar faces along the route.  It helped break up the miles, too, and keep my mind off obsessing over my stride and form and just run a comfortable pace.

Once we turned back north for the last five miles, that tail wind wasn't our friend any longer.  We were running directly into the wind, which was stirring as a head wind and a cross wind, not helpful either way you slice it.  As I'd told a friend to do at the start, I kept my mind thinking about how much I'd already done, rather than how much I had left to go.  Keeping a positive spin on the distance, I did my best to keep the feelings of, "Are you kidding?  I still have how many miles to go?" from permeating my thoughts.  Running along the lakefront helps keep things in a positive light, for the most part, and the more I focused on what I was achieving, the less I felt that sense of, "please, can this be over??".

My hip felt pretty good, but I won't say I didn't feel it.  My friend and I had agreed to walk through each water stop, to ensure that we would actually drink the water and not cover ourselves with it.  Getting going again is the hardest part for my hip.  Yes, that's usually the case when I'm at more than 6 miles anyway, but the hip needs some extra encouragement when it comes to walk breaks.  When we hit the 7 mile marker, I realized we had just short of a 5K left.  Just that thought made the last three miles easier to manage, mentally.  Honestly, there's something about knowing you have that distance remaining, and knowing how long it's probably going to take you.  You can almost see the finish, and estimate your total finish time.  Of course, times like this are no time to be doing that math in your head, so I purged those estimates from my mind and focused on just getting to that finish line.

What happened next was a first for me.  Really.  Throughout the race I kept seeing the porta potties and thinking to myself, "Really?  You can't hold it for at least 90 minutes?".  Yes, I really thought that.  Only on Sunday mornings when I've gone on my solo runs after a few cups of coffee has the urge ever hit me during a run.  Never during a race, though.  I kid you not.  Well, guess what.  I suddenly realized that things could get pretty ugly if I didn't visit the next set of porta potties.  And hopefully they were coming up soon.  I tried to remember what I'd seen on the course map as far as aid stations and water stops, and thought there was probably going to be one around mile 8 or so.  Mile 8 seemed to be hiding from us, though.  That mile marker took forever to get to.  Yes, this was the longest mile (in my head) of the entire race, as I realized that if I didn't make this stop, I was going to be heading off the path looking for some bushes.  Dude.

Finally, at the final water stop, my friend walked for some water while I sucked it up and stopped to 'lighten the load'.  Quickest pit stop of my life, probably.  And the most valuable.  Saved my race.  With that taken care of, we looked at each other and knew were were so close to the finish, there was no stopping now!

That pit stop sort of cost me, though.  I didn't just slow my pace for some water intake, I literally stopped for a couple minutes.  That's a huge difference.  Getting started up again was really tough, and luckily my girlfriend was OK with walking a little bit in order to help me get back into the groove.  Honestly, that was the hardest part of the race.  Imagine, in the last couple miles, when you can hear the cheers at the finish line, and you've got to get your legs moving again.  Ugh.

Never fear, however!  We entered Soldier Field through a tunnel on the east side of the stadium, wove through some parking spots, and finally through the tunnel that brought us out on the field, and directly to the 50 yard line.  Amazing!  It was an incredible feeling to know that I'd just completed my first 10 mile race, and it felt good!  After some celebration and a bottle of water, I stretched a bit before we headed in to get our finishing rewards.

Here is me with my girlfriend shortly after our awesome finish!

Now, there are a few things I don't like in a race.  One thing I don't like is hairpin turns.  This race did not have any, thanfully.  What it did have, that I have now added to my "Dear Race Director, please don't {do this}" list, is that as we headed back off the field to get our medals and finisher blankets, we had to go up a ramp.  Now, if I were to see the ramp today, it would probably be no more steep than my driveway.  After 10 miles, however, that ramp could very well have been Mt. Everest for all I knew, and it sure seemed so!  Seriously?  Make me climb an incline after I just did 10 miles?  Are you serious?

All kidding aside, after we got our stuff and collected our gear from the gear check, we headed out to the post-race party where my team had gathered at a tent, and we shared our successes, thoughts, and lots of stretching.  I stretched like I'd never stretched after a race before.  It felt so good.  Sure, I was sore (the hip), but it felt so good to know I'd just done those 10 miles when I wouldn't have believed I could back in February, or even March.

This race made me feel good about all the work I'd been doing to that point and good about myself for sticking with it and not backing down.  I was really excited about it, and in the end, my time was in line with my expectation.  Official finish time was 1:35:31.  Given the year I've had, I was, and still am, pleased with that time!

Oh, and that's not all.  There's more.  Lots more.  I've been a racing fool!  More to come...

Race recaps, the return to racing

I was discharged from physical therapy last month, and to say I 'hit the ground running' would rather be an understatement.  Yes, I started running.  Yes, it hurt.  Yes, I'm going back to the therapist today to find out why I'm still not feeling the love.

On May 19th I did an 8K.  On May 24th I did a 3.5 mile race.  On May 26th I did the Soldier Field 10 Mile.  On June 3rd I did a 5K.  Finally, the weekend of June 8-9, I did the Ragnar Relay, completing about 20 miles in three legs.

I have changed my race schedule (note to self: update schedule on the blog!) due to my hip causing me troubles here and there.  I am comfortable as far as my endurance again, and am feeling good about my form.  My hip, however, is not happy with any of it.  Here is a summary of some of the madness I've put my body through in the past month.  Soldier Field and Ragnar will get their own entries, as they are quite a bit longer than these smaller races. 

 The 8K I did was an inaugural race in the town where I live, benefiting the school district.  I was able to get through the race just 4 minutes off the PR I set back in November.  This included a quick walk break near the end so I could pick just the right song to finish the race to.  Aside from that, I felt good throughout the race.  I was certainly slower than I was before my injury, but still felt OK.  Had I not gone out with an 8:40 first mile, I would have finished even stronger.

Next was my 3.5 mile race, which was the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.  This is a 3.5 mile road race held in Grant Park in Chicago.  I have done it for many years, with my PR being set last year at 29:10.  Of course, last year was super cold and this year was super hot.  The heat took its toll, but, also attracted many more runners than appeared last year when it was cold.  Plus, being open to all employees of local corporations and businesses, most of the crowd was not experienced runners or racers.  Etiquette was scarce, to say the least.  This made for a crowded, hot course.  I was not happy.  I felt really good, but, couldn't find a groove as I swerved around the throngs of walkers, slow joggers, and those who have no idea how to stay to the right when they're not keeping up with the swarm.  I was annoyed, to say the least.  I felt good at the finish and in the days that followed.  The hip was keeping up its end of the bargain.  Sore, but keeping up.

So, that's not so bad, is it?  A pretty mild return to racing after my injury and all the therapy.  Oh, wait.  There's more.  Much more.  

Mommy's Project 52:46 Beautiful

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
Franz Kafka

 The other day while we were at the dentist, while Ethel obediently opened, closed, smiled, turned this way or that, and sat still in the chair for her cleaning, my son was walking around playing with his car.  One would have thought he was in another world the way he carried on making noises and walking aimlessly.  

I believe this was one of my lucky days when I had the luxury of a shower, which is not all too common on the days I work from home.  I'd let my hair air dry, could feel a few awesome pimples starting to surface, and was limping from the pain in my hip (another entry altogether right there).  Needless to say, in the frenzy of trying to get the kids out of the house, make sure my work was not left undone, and make it to the appointment on time, I really hadn't done much to bolster my appearance.  I don't have to have make up on before leaving the house.  I'm lucky we're all dressed, forget make up.  Vanity is not at the top of my list.

Perhaps that's where Ethel gets her sense of style.

As I stood in the dental exam room with Luke wandering in and out with his car, suddenly all his sounds stopped.  He stopped moving.  He turned and looked at his sister.  He turned and looked at me.  The thoughts in his head were swimming around in his head, and I could almost see the wheels turning up there as he turned from his sister to me.

I love you, Mommy.
You're beautiful.
{insert cute grin, tilted head, and shy shoulder turn}

Both kids are sensitive and emotional in vastly different ways.  Fred is still snuggly and needs hugs and kisses for reassurance and comfort.  Ethel simply has outbursts when she's exhausted.  I think she's secretly a teenager and somehow I lost about 6 years of time to a few boxes of wine.  Either way, this statement from Fred is something I hear from him rather often, and it always makes me feel good.

Seeing beauty through the eyes of a child is so refreshing and truly something that we adults can learn from.  Fred thinks I'm beautiful (or he just pooped in his pants and is trying to butter me up) even as I stand in a dental office with bad lighting, messy hair, and no make up.  Kids have a fresh perspective.

He did not tell me I was beautiful on this
hot day after a race
One of the things I love most about kids is how they can make you feel beautiful, even when you're not feeling beautiful.  My son is well versed in making Mommy feel beautiful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:45 Thankful

The many blessings for which I am thankful...

My husband, who has the hardest job in
the world, being my husband

My daughter, who is growing up
faster than I can keep up

My son, always my baby boy

My mom, who is always there for me

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This is crazy!

Yes, I am a bad blogger of late.  I've fallen behind on Mommy's Project 52, kid updates, running updates, and basically being here.  Yes, I'm a bad blogger.  Please forgive me.

In the last month or so:

I went to Derby.  Loved it.
I finished PT.  Love that.
I ran a 5K, 3.5 mile, 8K, and a 10 miler, and a Ragnar Relay.  Loved them.
We had a garage sale and sold the Pack n Play (the last baby item).  I love that we made some money.  Jury is out on the PnP part.
I traveled for work.  Detroit - meh.
Ethel finished first grade, and her 7 years in day care.  I cried.
Fred 'graduated' from the pre-k program at day care and we went to the 'ceremony'.  I didn't cry.  That night.
Ethel started a new summer camp.  Loves it.
Fred started t-ball.  Loves it.

I need to update on my hip and my running, since marathon training started last week.  Ya, I kind of decided that this past weekend's Ragnar would be my first week's mileage, so I'll leave it at that.  I hope to get out this week for some more miles each day.  The weather will be great for it.

My hip is sore again, after 2.5 weeks of no pain at the end of April, beginning of May.  I guess when you start running again, there is going to be some amount of sore/pain to go along with it.  Sure.

I discovered my disdain for a song I hadn't heard before I spent time in a van with 5 other smelly runners this past weekend (review of Ragnar to come).  Suffice it to say, Call Me Maybe is now a fixture in my brain and I'm doing all that I can to get it out.  Enjoy that little clip of the impromptu dance party my van mates and I had before I ran my third (of 3) leg on Saturday morning at Ragnar.  :)

Anyway, all that to say, it's been very busy.  I will be taking time later this week to sit down and get some time online doing things like updating my blog and sharing stories of the madness that is our life here in the 'burbs. 

I've been trying to make time to savor a cup of coffee in the morning, and relax with a glass of wine at night, but that never seems to happen.  This whole adulthood thing is for the birds, I tell ya!

Hang with me.  I'm here.  This is crazy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Where did my babies go?

Fred can fully recognize his letters (has for a while now), and their sounds. He is trying as hard as he can to read, to put letters and their sounds together to form words. He wants to read like Ethel does. It's so cute. I am trying to work with him without pushing too much. I know he'll get there, and kindy starts in the fall, so I feel good that he's at this stage.  Just last night I pulled out a workbook for him to try his hand at.  It's simple sight words, tracing the letters and identifying the (mostly three/four letter) words that belong with the pictures.  He killed it.  Scary.  I had to talk him into stopping so we could eat dinner.  I think he wants to be able to read what I write about him and his sister on Facebook.

They are working on numbers at (day care) school now, and he has gotten so much better writing them. His number 3 was horrific not long ago, but now it's recognizable as a 3. They are up to letter 8 or 9, and he loves practicing writing them.

Bookworms in the making
 I told Ethel that I'd like her to write a note, to both the day care director and to her first grade teacher, before next week when both experiences end. She asked if she can write to her first grade teacher and ask her to tell the principal that Ethel wishes she could go to school all summer. All year, even. She said it with the most glimmery eyes, with magic in her face, and a hope that you usually see from kids in a toy store hoping their parents will buy them all the Angry Birds on the shelf. Seriously, she loves going to school and has asked me several times if she can keep going all summer.

Evidence that perhaps she's not my child. {??}

Ethel gave me tons of hugs and kisses the other night. This is totally out of the norm for her, she rarely even accepts them, let alone give them. She was more loving that night than I've seen her in a long time. It was wonderful, and I told her how much I liked that, and that it made me feel good.  She smiled and smiled.  She even let me put braids in her hair twice in the last week.  I can't help but think she wants, or did, something.

Yes, I might be the most cynical parent on the planet right now. I'm OK with that. Or maybe I'm just in denial that my kids are growing up.  Either way, I am happy to see the progress both kids are making, and watching them grow up is something I treasure. 

For now, I still have a first grader (3.5 more days) and a five year old who is home with me on my work at home days (kindy starts in the fall).  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Now where's my coffee?  Is it too early for wine?