Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interesting Vacations

It's the end of summer 2010. And I'm sad about it, so I'm already researching vacations for 2011. On the list of possibilities:

•My First Triathlon/My Next Triathlon family vacation at Lake Lanier Islands in Georgia in June.
•A 4-day culinary vacation to Paris for MacTroll and I.
•A Disney Cruise of some kind in the Caribbean.

Been on any of these kinds of trips? Have any suggestions?

I'm also viewing trips to the Grand Canyon and Portland, Ore., for when X-man is older. But those are ones I'd have to plan out myself... :-) These I just show up and people give me a loose schedule (like when to show up for my bread and chocolate tour of Paris) and the rest is free time...

Tomorrow, we're leaving for Kingsley Pines in Raymond, ME for a week. We'll be flying to Boston and then driving. (Yes, we are aware if we want to take alcohol for the parental happy hours we should stop in NH, so we don't have to pay sales tax. :-) It's a 2-2.5-hour drive to Maine.

On the way back, we're spending Friday night in Boston and then coming home on Saturday for the rest of Labor Day weekend. See you when we return!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Time Management

Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to know what's going on around town. I am obsessed with calendars, event planning -- and I'm pretty good at making nothing into something fun, educational and, maybe even useful.

When MacTroll and I decided we were only going to have an only, I wondered if there was any truth to the adage that only children were lonely and unsocialized children. When I told my mother we were only having one, she told me I'd change my mind. When I asked her why she had two, she said, "Well, you can't just have one."

So, I did some research. And I found out that only children for the most part (because you could have a child in the Brady Bunch and she could be lonely) weren't lonely kids at all. In fact, because they didn't have a sibling at home, it made them uber interested in social situations, making and keeping friends and wanting to try new things. Really? Okay. So, being the completely overachiever that I've been accused of being, I set out to find tons of venues around town, parents groups, neighbors, friends, etc., that would not only give me some insight into parenting but also encourage my little man to explore the world around him.

Except now that I sit here with the calendar, three park district catalogs, my school schedule, MacTroll's travel schedule and my fitness schedule... I'm runin gout of time. Because I also have a firm appreciation that I grew up in a house where I could throw open the door and run outside to play in my yard whenever I wanted or ask permission to go to a neighbor's house to play... a need for "scheduled unscheduled" time. Last weekend we stayed in our jammies pretty much all day on Sunday. It was awesome. We never do that. We're always running from brunch to the market to a friend's house, etc.

X-man asked to do Tae Kwon Do this fall, so I anticipate that's what we'll be doing. I also on a leap of faith enrolled him in Saturday swimming lessons in October and November at the Aquatic Center. Because I can tell when we go swimming, it's time for him to learn. He's already trying the front crawl all by himself, but just needs someone that's NOT ME to lead him through the technique. But there's two activities that take three days, and that to me feels like way more than enough.

I know he wants to do a league t-ball next spring so he can play on the Little League field at Prairie Fields Park. So I'm reserving Saturdays for that. I also signed him up for two one-day soccer clinics in February at the Savoy Recreation Center, hopefully as a way to wear out some of those late winter blues that always pop up around here.

Affordability is also an issue. I can afford TKD only by giving up the Little Gym, where he's taken classes since January. He was sad about that, until I told him I signed him up for two of the Little Gym parent survival nights, so he doesn't lose touch with the Little Gym (and MacTroll and I get 3 hours together in October and in November). He loves it there. He's already asked to have his birthday there next March... Heaven forbid he suddenly decides he has an interest in piano. And what about the Lego clubs around town... and his interest in science? It's insane how many activities that it would be possible to completely over schedule your kid in around here.

He doesn't seem to have any problem bopping from activity to activity when it ends (except he cried when T-ball season was over). And I love his excitement about trying new things. He's a bit of a whirlwind... which, I guess makes him a bit like me. We'll see if that's a good thing or bad thing a bit later, I suppose.

In the end, I guess we're following Robert Heinlein's philosophy:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Of course, nowhere in that quote does it say that you should be able to fill up water balloons effectively at the backyard hose (which is what we've been doing every night after dinner this week, thanks to Dana and Big Jack).  :-) I guess Heinlein just missed out on that kind of fun.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hey, I know you!

I returned to class on Monday at Parkland and have been doing double takes at people all week long. As it turns out, three of my classmates are Moms I know. One is a parent of a fellow All Star 2 student in X-man's room at Next Generation. One was a toddler teacher at NG until she had a baby 3 months ago and I taught a fellow student's son at Mother's Morning Out last spring.

It's funny how running into people in unusual places makes you all say, "Hey wait, I know you from somewhere!" One figured me out at drop off this morning. The other I had to go home and think about. And the NG teacher knows X-man since her room shared a bathroom with the Turtles. :-)

It's funny how tiny this town is when you have kids or dogs...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TKD: Day 2

We returned to HMD Academy today for our second day of classes. Today started off a little harder (X-man just wanted to go home and watch/read Magic School Bus). When I told him that we had signed up, so we were going to go, he told me I was a bad Mommy and he was going to erase the sign up. He complained about it all the way into the dry cleaners to drop off a quilt and back into the car and all the way to TKD.

Then when we got to TKD, the complaining stopped. He went inside, took off his shoes, put them on the shoe rack and wanted to go into the classroom. I tried to explain that I'm old and need more stretching before class, which, of course, leads to the question, "Mommy, are you old like a grandma?"

Nice. Thanks kid.

I stretch with him nagging me the whole time. Then we go in. When you enter the classroom you bow. I tried to explain that this is a respectful gesture. He just looked at me like I was crazy. We were the first ones ready (everyone else was changing into their uniforms in the bathroom). Against the east wall is a bunch of portable punching bags. I have to admit on the first day, I was rather excited to see them. I've taken a bunch of cardio kickboxing classes in my lifetime, but NONE of them is ever exciting as the one class I took where you did full contact kick boxing with a bag. Seriously. There is something about hitting and kicking the crap out of something that is just fulfilling. (Hmmm, no wonder I played tennis, volleyball and soccer as a kid.) I like the contact.

We warmed up with our 9-year-old assistant and then Mr. Hyong (Master Hyong's son). Then Master Hyong came out and worked with us and another beginner. He was there with his outfit and his white belt (where we'll start). We did some reviews of kicks and blocks that we learned on Monday. Then we learned some fun jump back and kick maneuvers and practiced how our toes should be pointed, flexed, full foot flex, etc. for each different kind of kick.

In the first five minutes, Master Hyong said to me, "Funny story, but true. Sometimes parents bring their kids in to try TKD, and then the kids lose interest... but the parent stays and gets black belt. So be aware that you may stay, even if he goes." I think that might have been complimentary of my efforts, but then again, it could have just been a story...

Master Hyong picked up on the fact that X-man works awesome and pays more attention when he has one-on-one interaction. He also likes to yell and roar like a lion. He also finds it entertaining when he surprises the master. So while we were in fighting stance and jumping back to avoid a kick and then twisting to kick with our back foot, X-man actually got the Master in the shin. He was trying to get X-man to jump back, because he'd jump back and fall to the ground rather than stay on his feet. Then he started doing it, and whomp out shot the right kicking leg and -- bump -- it made contact. Master's face smiled. He high fived X-man. And X-man was beaming. He got it right, and he actually got one in on the master.

I had over 3 hours of workouts today between physical therapy, mowing the lawn, weeding and TKD. And I'm pooped and gross and sweaty. I'm going back out to weed some more on the west side of the house, to prepare for our last trip this summer. But I'm looking forward to coming back for TKD classes, and to go to Master Hyong's house for a special HMD Academy pig roast party with cowboy shooting exhibitions, horseback riding, archery and more. X-man thought that sounded awesome, so I think we're finding a new community of sorts. And really, wouldn't you just die to see me in a few years with a black belt. I'd be almost as awesome as Mr. Libbygrrl. We could spar.

Getting Back in the Saddle

Today at physical therapy, Eric (the PT) asked me when my next scheduled run would be. My response, "When won't it hurt?"

He looked at me and smiled. "You won't now unless you try it."

I sighed.

"Friday. I'll go out Friday."

"Good. Let me know how it goes."

I'm scared to death, but I know he's right. I've been successfully making it to fitness classes, getting on my bike and tomorrow I'm re-entering the Aquatic Center for the first time in a while, since I finally found my punch cards -- hooray.

But I also did something else. I signed up for the Women's Fitness 5k at the end of September. I find myself in a common situation to last year when I did the Ambulance Chase and got turned on to running... but had my training side tracked due to issues with a weak pelvic floor that landed me in PT and without the ability to exercise more than walking for six weeks. Like last year, it isn't about personal bests. I don't consider myself a runner. Instead, I'm just going out there to finish and to help a good cause.

So, if you see me out doing short runs or run/walks (let's be realistic after 10 weeks pretty much off running) around Prairie Fields cheer me on or something will ya? Because I'm feeling pretty out of sorts. And if you run the race, stick around when you're done and yell me in or something, too, please? X-man is doing the kid dash beforehand, so if your kids want to run around in the trees with mine, that's cool, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trying Something New

Today, X-man and I walked into our first Tae Kwon Do class at HMD Academy in Savoy. I got information about their program when we took X-man to see Toy Story earlier in the summer. They had a table set up outside the movie theater for one free month of classes. I liked that unlike the park district they were fine with him being 4. I was also hoping TKD could be something we did as a family that would help me teach X-man to have more control not over just his body, but over his emotions as well.

He's 4, and as a student in early childhood, there's nothing really that is completely not within normal developmental behavioral issues -- right now. But I also know that some of the normal developmental issues mirror ADHD. I'm not raising a red flag, I'm just saying, I'm watching him and his emotional roller coaster...

Mostly what I'm worried about are the self-esteem and emotional self-control issues he's been having lately. He says no one likes him. He says he doesn't have any friends. He says he thinks his teachers don't like him. But to me he thinks anyone doesn't like him who tries to persuade him to do something he doesn't want to do. And if what they were asking him to do was "bad" this would be a good instinct. But wiping your butt after you go poop, keeping your hands to yourself, not whining for everything and not jumping about for attention are all things within a) a normal 4 year old's problem area and b) something everyone in his life is trying to teach him to do -- because they're necessary social development skills.

But when anyone disciplines him or asks him to correct his behavior, he falls apart. Case in point, last week I went on a field trip to the Orpheum with his class. When he saw me across the parking lot, my child dropped his partner's hand and RAN INTO THE STREET. Yes, I know he was excited to see me, but, of course, what he got was Ms. Shari, Ms. Susan and I all shouting, "No!" and "Danger!" and "Cars!" And his little heart raced and he started crying because he was in trouble. The next 30 minutes I was saddled with a very clingy, very emotionally overwrought kid.

"I don't want to be in trouble. I don't want to be bad."

Even after telling him he wasn't in trouble, we were just all scared and that he did a good job by stopping where he was and then going back to the sidewalk, it couldn't erase the embarrassment and shame he felt. He did something wrong -- and, therefore, for the rest of the day he thought he had had a bad day. It ruined every other good thing he did that day. This kind of overdramatic behavior totally runs in my family. And the funny part is, I exhibit it more when my husband is around than I do when he's gone. When he's gone, there's no one to bitch, too. So I just kind of suck it up. When he's home the minute something doesn't go my way, I throw my hands up and start cursing.

I remember feeling like my life was ending when I got my name put up on the blackboard as a kid because I turned around in my desk to loan my neighbor some scissors... which I apparently wasn't supposed to do because the teacher had just told us to face forward because we were all uber noisy that day. She wrote my name on the board, and at 34, I still remember sobbing about it and being too ashamed to raise my hand in class for the rest of the week because I thought it meant that my teacher hated me. Ain't genetics great?

Anyway, we showed up to the new TKD 3:30 class on M/W. There were 3 other boys in the class with X-man. Two 9-10 year olds and a 5 year old who is smaller than X-man. The assistant teacher had one of the 9 year olds run warm ups and stretching. I am doing it with X-man, so we did all the stretches, then we did sprints, sit ups, push ups and some basic stances. After warm up Master Hyong came and worked with X-man and I. He asked me not to try to teach X-man (so he could). I just modeled good behavior by following instruction. Xander lasted about 15 minutes. In that time, he sat down about a dozen times, flailed about, said he couldn't do something but then he kicked and hit pretty effectively, cheered for himself, was then shy, was then loud, and then he did his fake cry... in short he was all over the place. Master Hyong and I continued while X-man got to go sit by the wall and take a break. Then he had a little talk with me as he was doing some exercises with me. In 15 minutes, he had deconstructed my child's strengths and weaknesses. Those that are normal for his age, and those that are specific to him.

And he was dead on. I guess 47 years of working with kids has its benefits for parents everywhere.

We're going back for class on Wednesday, and I hope I can get him to stick with it. X-man had announced in the middle of class he was done and ready to go home, but I kept working. So he kept working... Then at the end, when we left the classroom, he played with the Legos for a while, and I ran into an MMO mom and her three boys. Her 5 year old was in the 4:15 class and then 5 minutes later a CARE friend of mine came through with her son and daughter. Her 6-year-old son was in the 4:15 class, too. Both were big fans of Master Hyong and the positive changes they've seen in their sons.

So, we'll see where we are after class two. I'll probably go back and meet with Master Hyong and see what his strategy is re: my training and X-man's. We'll see if he wants me to continue in a class with X-man or go to one after. I really enjoyed it, myself. And I loved watching how positively he and the other teachers interacted with the small kids, particularly. They had an expectation, and when it was met, the praise was definitely given. I could tell when that happened, X-man felt special and proud of himself. It made it easier when he had trouble on the next activity.

I guess, in the end, I'm hoping that TKD will help me raise a better boy. But I will admit it was nice that during that entire class experience, I was off the hook for discipline. He didn't get to hang on me or whine at me. And I made it clear when we went in, that like him, I had never done this before. So I was not in charge in the room Master Hyong was... but he still looked at me before he did anything.

It was also nice that during stretching some of the items were familiar for him though. At one point he said, "I know how to do these stretches from Little Gym!"

So, wish us luck. :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eeks, how'd I get so behind?

Okay, I swear I felt on top of thing around my house two weeks ago before we went to Canada, and now I feel infinitely behind. The gardens are covered in gigantic weeds that grew when we were gone, the house needs to be cleaned. I'm still working on moving things from the garage to the basement.

It's a mess. Hopefully on Tuesday I'll get it under control.

Right now I just want to vacate so I don't have to look at it. Is it only me who gets this way?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Call and Answer

I'm starting to relearn how the natural progression of a relationship is supposed to be that you are yourself and then through chemistry and common interest and effort someone becomes your friend, but that doesn't mean he stays your friend. People come together and they grow apart. You can't go rushing after people and plan every outing and look at your friendships like a job. Sure, maintaining a relationship takes effort, but it shouldn't be strenuous work. It should not be one sided. And, often, how you see your role in a friendship is completely NOT how the friend sees it. Sometimes you just grow in different directions and lose sight of each other only to come back together years later. Sometimes you think the world of a person, but at that time your life is filled with turmoil or other chaos so you never get to know that friend like you wish you did. Sometimes you've been a complete asshole and that's why no one calls you or invites you to things. You may not even be aware of what you've done, and it's really hard to ask someone what is going on when you feel disconnected from everyone.

Sometimes you look around and realize that, as you are, the world isn't very much interested right now. It doesn't mean you're a terrible person and no one wants to be around you. It doesn't mean you should cut yourself off from everything. It just means that right now, at this moment, you find yourself without a person who knowingly rolls their eyes with you, understands your private jokes, knows what to do when you need someone just to listen and not try to solve everything or make recommendations. You're without that person who fundamentally gets -- you.

And some days, I think that you're the only person that can really understand you, and although people are often wonderful (although sometimes not) additions to our lives, we still live and die alone.

But that doesn't mean you stop trying to make connections. Connections are what making life worth living. I can't imagine not getting out there and trying. Can you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Daze

I start classes on Monday at Parkland. I'm taking three this semester. An Intro to Early Childhood Education class I kind of skipped by starting on a spring semester, Teaching Math and Science to children ages 2-6 and a class on building relationships with Family and Community. This will likely be my last three classes at Parkland in Early Childhood. When I'm done, I'll have earned enough credits in early education to get a job doing most anything in a pre-school... but I'm not.

Instead, I've called and e-mailed (but haven't gotten a reply back) from Eastern Illinois University asking for permission to send them all of my transcripts and seek guidance on getting into a program there. I've decided to try and work toward becoming a registered dietician that works with with early childhood intervention. So many aspects of children with special needs require help with nutrition. And, most everyone in our country needs a little help with obesity... so I thought maybe I'd combine my interest in early childhood with the personal passion that has developed for wellness in the last year.

I'm going to have some pre-requisites to take, and it's likely that after I'm done with the general RD  program I'll probably want to see about getting a pediatric dietician certification through somewhere, but I'm really excited about it. And I was having nightmares of becoming a certified teacher only to  be an unemployed kindergarten teacher as more and more school districts lay off staff... (see where adaption is key here?) Plus, my early childhood classes are invaluable in terms of how to work with small children AND their families.

Anyway, that's what's new in my world today... And you know how I can't seem to live without a general 3-5 year plan in my head. I like to create direction. So, as long as MacTroll doesn't get any earth shattering job news I have some follow up phone calls to make.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


While driving home with this week's food experiment in the back of my car, I started to formulate some kind of blog. I was thinking about personal identity and how we become who we are, how that person grows and changes, how some people fear the unknown while others throw up their hands and adapt. I'm convinced that there are only just a tiny percentage who actually, most of the time, evolve gracefully like they were meant to.

Since we got back a day early from our vacation, I decided to use our $100 weekly grocery budget  entirely at the Common Ground Coop in Urbana to get me until Friday, my normal grocery shopping day. Now before you roll your eyes at me (either pro-organic or another). Let me say up front, "I KNEW THAT IT WOULD BE MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE." I knew I couldn't shop like I do at Meijer each week. I knew there was no way that the coop could have everything that the mega box store does, nor could they sell most of what they have more cheaply. So, why would I bother?

I've been reading a lot of nutrition articles lately. Some of them are from magazines like Eating Well, Cooking Light and Runner's World. Others are in the New York Times, The News-Gazette and other online news sources. There's a strong -- push, to eat local. There's an even stronger push to eat organic. And there's a whirlwind force to eat plant-based foods.

I won't lie to you. As an HMR groupie, I find extraordinary comfort that when I feel out of control in the eating department I just simply jump back in my box during the crisis. That means the bulk of my food comes from packages with whole foods mixed in. For example, a breakfast would be a package of HMR cereal with a 4 oz of blueberries. Mid-morning snack might be two HMR vanilla protein shakes with a banana, some sugar free caramel syrup and a smidge of imitation rum extract. Lunch would be a package of HMR Mushroom Risotto with 3 cups of baby spinach mixed in and an orange on the side... See what I mean?

In a normal day, when I'm not "in the box" I eat HMR for breakfast. Since I never used to eat breakfast when I was obese, this is a big deal. It's clockwork. My body knows the fuel and it's used to it. Then I usually try to stick to the usual healthy diatribe of whole grains, lean proteins and fruits and veggies. At dinner time, I slip in a double HMR shake or make it into pudding. My goal is always to try and have 3 HMR supplements a day. It helps me keep track of what goes into my mouth, and they are much lower in calories than other items I'd choose for myself. (Read here, my mental issues around food require a crutch.)

I digress.

I made my grocery list of the items we normally eat. Then I made a list of the ingredients I'd need in three recipes this week. As usual 30 percent of my grocery list is fresh produce, and off I went with my reusable grocery bags, just like it was any normal grocery buying day.

Now, unlike the usual Friday, I didn't write down the cost of everything as I put it in my cart onto my list. I do this to make sure I stay in my $100 budget. I also tend to buy my groceries in cash. I feed it myself into the self check out. Before my diet, MacTroll and I realized we were spending way too much at the grocery store. We were throwing food away. We overbought items and never planned dinners so that we could reuse leftovers in recipes or use leftover ingredients. But today, I used my credit card.

It was no surprise that I couldn't find everything on my list. And the one guilty item that my household can't let go -- diet soda -- ate most of the budget. It cost just over $14 to buy one six pack of the Stevia-based diet soda and one six pack of San Pellagrino orange soda. Yes. $14.

It was $13 for Buffalo burgers, a shift I made when I realized I couldn't find everything I needed for the Greek chicken meal I was planning. Namely, where were the cucumbers? And there were no green beans for the side dish available either. So, lesson 1 of shopping in a place where foods are not always available -- you have to be able to be a good enough cook to adapt. We'll see if I am that kind of creative cook over the next couple of days.

I bought one item that I didn't have on my list -- almond butter. My son has become kind of a kid-food focused eater. And by kid-focused, he's not willing to explore other foods too much right now. He finds some kind of comfort in having a fry section at every meal. So I've been making homemade sweet potato baked fries, regular baked french fries, etc. But he refuses potato wedges as being too much like a potato, which he doesn't like. Almond butter and jelly sandwiches are a fall back in case my 4 year old decides to suddenly fast.

I'm a co-op member, so I walked up and gave the woman my number and put my food up on the cart and then bagged it myself. The total was $106. And here's the gut of MY eating problem. Plenty of people shop entirely at the coop. They make it work because they either cook a great quantity of their food from the bulk bins (the coop has menus for using the bins AND a eat organic for less class that is free and offered every month to the public) OR they comfortably get by consuming less food overall.

I made several of the coop menus after taking the class last fall. They were great in the winter, but a lot of them, though they were high in fiber, ended up being high in calories and fat, as well, at least as they were portioned out in the recipes, so I had to change some of them to drop those numbers down. But I am reluctant to reduce my overall consumption of food. I'm not sure why. I find myself more and more eating because it's time for my mid-morning snack, rather than because I'm hungry lately. Sometimes, this is good, because when I don't eat on the schedule I can get sudden blood sugar dips (like what happened at the zoo on vacation). Sometimes, it's bad, because I'm eating when I don't need to. But it's often impossible for me to figure it out.

What I figured out is that shopping at the coop for me is an occasional stop. It doesn't fit into my life as a required shopping stop. Maybe it will in the future, but right now, shopping at Meijer is still much more economically feasible, particularly for box items on the shelves.

I was hoping that knowing that shopping at my local coop and knowing that purchasing produce there would induce some kind of upper-middle class euphoria based in the righteousness of following the recommendations of the research I've been reading. But it didn't. It made me realize how very dependent I am on food globalization. How paying $5 for organic strawberries at the coop hurts a lot more than the $2.50 I'd pay for the same carton... Even though the $2.50 funds a much more meaningful grocery. A grocer with intention that is overall better for both the environment and -- the final punch in the gut -- my family. I can honestly say that on the receipt of my food purchases today there was not one unreasonable or unhealthy food item.

Not one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

By the seat of our pants

We just got back from a family vacation, where nothing really went as it was supposed to. I was supposed to be going up to compete in a Try-a-Tri, but that didn't happen due to my back situation. As it was, I was really glad I didn't try to push it because by just walking around on vacation and making it to the gym ONCE to do my back exercises, I had some rough spots...

Mostly, I had it bad the first day, the day after PT driving to Detroit to pick up MacTroll. By the end of six hours, my back was on fire. I ended up in the backseat for the rest of the drive. Then when we got to Toronto, I had a mental list in my head of all the things I wanted to do that I thought the boys would find fun. But I had over planned in all of my excitement. No worries.

We spent all day Friday on Centre Island on Toronto Island Park at an amusement park. Then we rented a Surrey bike and biked the other parts of the island (stopping to let X-man play at a park). We came back, got the boys some ice cream, returned to Centreville kiddie park and ate ice cream while X-man waded into the kiddie wading pool. When we got home, X-man was pooped. MacTroll ran across the street to a store and brought them back some food to make sandwiches for dinner. Then we played in the hotel pool (which had a toddler area with toddler toys next to it that X-man fell in love with -- why, I don't know, but he did).

On Saturday, we had to get up early to go back to the island. We were watching our friend Dri do the triathlon, and she did amazing. She placed in her age group and had a massive improvement over when she did the same race last year. She also inspired two other friends to do it with her. X-man watched Dri mount her bike and then he wanted to hit the beach. So, MacTroll took him to the beach to play. I went back and forth between the two trying to be as supportive as possible.

By the time we were ready to go, my back needed a break. We got on the boat and I got to sit a bit. Then when we got back to the room, we cleaned up and took off for Pickle Barrel for lunch. After lunch, we went to the Toronto Zoo, which is an insanely large zoo. I hadn't had enough to eat or drink, apparently, and felt like I was going to pass out by the horses, so we found me a veggie hamburger to eat in Africa and waited for my blood sugar to perk up before moving on.

After the zoo, X-man was done. He just wanted to go back to the room at the Westin and chill out, so we did. Then MacTroll went out for dinner with Dri and Ian of the North while X-man and I went to play in the toddler play area again (he's big into serving food lately, so we were in the kitchen for 40 minutes or so). Afterwards, we got a special snack and tried to watch Marmaduke on Pay Per View. But the TV crapped out. I called down to the front desk, but there were all kinds of parties going on that weekend, so  no one called back. We read books and went to bed.

On Sunday, I got up and worked out in the gym. I did my back exercises, showered and then we ate a big breakfast at the hotel buffet and got in the car and started driving. It was raining off and on, and my back started cramping... so we decided against spending the night in a tent on the grounds. So we drove right by the park and continued on to Ann Arbor. MacTroll cashed in some of his hotel points for a night at a Four Points Sheraton, and we wandered out out to eat at the Jolly Pumpkin. Then X-man had some Superman ice cream at Kilwin's.

The next morning we took off for Indianapolis, where we ate lunch at the City Café, and then visited the Indianapolis Children's Museum. Now we're home, a day early... It was kind of an impromptu vacation, and I'm glad we were able to be flexible, not just because of my physical limitations but because we could still come up with places we wanted to be and could enjoy as a family.

On the other hand, it makes MacTroll and I long for time when we can go to cities without having to scope out restaurants that will serve X-man what he wants to eat and us what we want to eat (because often times those are two very different things).

It would also be nice to sleep past 7:15 a.m. on vacation.

We came home to the full length mirror I had bought at Ikea lying broken and shattered on the floor. I'm not sure what happened, but we hadn't had a chance to mount it on the wall, so it must have fallen over thanks to a cat... Sigh. Guess I'll have to go back to Ikea alone some time.

So, not exactly as we planned, but still full of fun together time. We have one more day, and then it's back to the grind. The big surprise is that MacTroll doesn't have to travel on Wednesday, which is nice, because other than vacation, he's been gone the entire month this month, and had anticipated being gone the rest of the month, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Sure Sign I'm Getting Old

I'm always sore the day after physical therapy. I blame all the single legged bridges I have to do on a platform (because I'm not strong enough to do it on a weighted ball). And sitting for long periods is sometimes difficult.

I tried the heated seat element in my car, but it wasn't really in the right place.

So, I went to Target looking for a heating pad thinking I'll be sore for the drive to pick up MacTroll in Detroit. I should take along some Aleve and some heat.

I found this heating pad that looks like a belt for your back and hips that plugs in for $29. So if I get stiff, I can strap it on and plug it into the electrical outlet in my car and cruise on down the highway.

I was giddy at its brilliance.

Target, I love you.

All Over Town

Today, my day was pretty much this:

Take X-man to school.
Go to the gym for 45 minutes.
Visit my favorite aunt for 45 minutes.
Go see my health educator.
Have lunch with our friend Arek from Chicago at Flat Top.
Drop off a bag of old towels to our vet to use.
Go to Toys R Us and Barnes and Nobel to pick up a few thing for the road trip to Canada on Thursday.
Drop off two small boxes of old books to Goodwill.
Pick up dog food, cat food and cat litter from Petsmart.
Pick up laundry detergent and a back warmer from Target.
Drop off books at the Champaign Public Library.
Stop by the laundromat and wash my sleeping bag.
Drop some old clothes at the donation box.
Get Gas.
Get a Diet Dr Pepper from Sonic.
Go to the Tolono Library because I missed a book to drop off and had one on hold to pickup.
Go to the Savoy Post office.
Pick X-man up from school (where he threw a spoiled brat tantrum like I haven't seen -- damn him being able to figure out his seat belts).

I was in and out of the car from 8:30 until 4:30. And holy hell, it was hot and gross.

On Wednesday, my morning starts off the same except after the gym, I've got PT, shower, lunch and then a 12:30 massage appointment with Loree Harty. Followed by a trip to the bank for some Canadian money and battery recycling at Anita Purves.

Then I'll get to come home and pack the bags and the car, purchase our Centre Island tickets and make sure I have our passports. Riley heads off to the farm tomorrow night, as well.

We pick up MacTroll at the Detroit airport on Thursday...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Doughy in the middle

So, here's the thing about losing mass quantities of weight, when you get to the end you're not really done. It isn't a lie, like I thought it was. Maintaining is much harder than losing, (once you figure out how to get the damn weight off).

For 8 weeks I haven't been able to run. It was a quick way to burn a lot of calories. It made me not hungry. It gave me happy brain chemicals and it made me want to do new and different things.

Since I stopped, I've been having to cross train with biking, swimming, walking. I do fitness classes and weight training, stretching and I've been in Physical Therapy for 3 weeks. But here's the deal, the happy brain chemicals are gone. And I'm depressed about my body not being able to do what it used to. And I stress eat.

It's like losing the weight was more like suddenly being able to walk on water. Your body feels a bit easier and much more agile. But if you start to gain it back, you sink in a bit. Right now, I'm up to my thighs. But I've been sinking for so long that the water is tepid rather than a cold shock of a number on a scale.

In reality, I'm up 10 lbs. But truthfully, that's almost going from a size 6 to a size 8. I'm bloated and doughy in the middle. And I know what I need to do. Every morning I get up and write out the food plan. And for some reason, my brain thinks it's okay to deviate from it (like today's pretzels and non-fat greek yogurt). Yeah, that probably doesn't sound like junk food. But it was way too many pretzels.

There's a part of me that feels like I was waiting for this failure. Then there's part of me that says, "Screw that, get down to business." And although Quigs promised to punch me in the face if I started gaining, she hasn't said anything yet... but after this post, I'm expecting to have to use my ice pack. Because I really want to be part of the 2%.

If anyone's got any motivating words, I could definitely use some friends.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I'm a pretty big fan of getting a massage. Maybe it's the idea of someone touching me that isn't playing with the fatty part of my arm and giggling about it (X-man!) that I like. Maybe it's that after the massage, I feel completely relaxed and my whole body is pain free and loose. Whatever it is, I like it.

I have had the same massage therapist since I moved here. But last fall she started working out of her home in Monticello. I don't get to go often, maybe twice a year. I was having thoughts like I should call her -- but then I thought, this is ridiculous, there must be someone in town that I might like as much.

So when my back started to go south in April, I started trying different people for relief. Instead of hitting spas, I hit fitness-focused massage centers. for a person who got two massages a year, I tried four new massage therapists and none of them got it just right. Sure, I felt better, but I left feeling -- unfulfilled.

Tonight while I was looking up my old massage therapist's number, accepting the fact that I, indeed, found only her worth the $65 an hour and would definitely drive to Monticello and tip her 20 percent to make all my pain go away and for some relaxation and improvement of mobility... I found that she has taken a gig -- at the Erickson Clinic, in the same office as my very nice chiropractor, Jake Gray.

Now I want to go see her whenever I have a dismal back day. Can I afford that? No. But the fact that she's up the road is kind of fun. I can now drop my child off, go to the gym, go to physical therapy, and visit my massage therapist all in the same 2 square miles.

Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. So if you too, were a fan of Lorree Harty from Knollwood -- she's back in town. Just click on the Erickson link and make your appointment!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I prefer toads over mice

In the summer, our window wells for the basement get toads. Lots of them. KTDID and X-men helped me remove around two dozen toads of varying sizes from the well last week, so that the framers could carry the lumber for framing the new room in the basement through the window well. Yes, I have grates to keep X-man from falling into the well upstairs. I also have covers to try and keep the toads and mice out, but those little monsters find a way. The mice usually end up dying. The toads appear to thrive.

However, in the winter our house gets mice. It doesn't happen too often. Only when the temps dip below 15 or so, do they dare come inside and take a chance with our mousers (Luke and Maya). They get in somewhere through the basement, but since KTDID lived down there last winter, we didn't get down there much.

When she moved out, we put all of our furniture in the storage room to clean the carpets and start planning on putting a 4th bedroom downstairs. Then we left it alone for a while so we could work on the new flooring upstairs and the gardens. When we went to put everything back, we noticed their messes.

As it turns out, the mice were in the HVAC and storage room last winter. So they ate some things (a spine to my high school yearbook, insulation and lots of cardboard boxes). But they also managed to poop and pee all over a bunch of MacTroll's work electronics and all the boxes that he was (for some reason) saving.

Today, while my Mom was available to sit, MacTroll and I went through all of his cord and box collections, the basement electronics and then all of the other unlabeled boxes in the storeroom. We cleaned up all the stuff with Chlorox wipes and took a trunk full of electronics to the quarterly electronics recycling collection in Champaign, which was a mess! We waited an hour and a half to turn our stuff in. But the nice part was that it was 90 minutes without our child... and there was nothing else for the two of us to do but chit chat, which was really pretty enjoyable.

When we returned home, we continued to scrub, disinfect and vacuum the storage room. Then we headed out to pick up two more sets of metal shelving and some rubbermaid containers. All of the cardboard boxes in the basement are being put out for collection on Monday morning. We also made the decision to trash X-man's crib, as it had a drop side and those have now been banned.

It's now amazingly clean in there. So, I started shifting some things that were in the garage, that should really be kept indoors, into the rubbermaid containers. I labeled them and put them away on the new shelves. I promise that anything over 40 lbs was not lifted by me.

I still have more work to do. I found a box of random files that needed to be shredded from 1999-2001. So I worked on that until I overheated the shredder. :-)

Overall, it was one of the most productive Saturdays in a while because two of us could work together rather than always having one person on child watching duty. But Nana admitted tonight that there would be no way she could keep up with X-man every day. We know we gave birth to the energizer bunny. :-)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy Noodle/Sad Noodle

Happy Noodle: Today we took X-man to the Spray Park at Miller Park in Bloomington next to the Miller Park Zoo. We met some friends there and had an awesomely good time. We arrived around 10:45 a.m., played, ate some lunch, went to the zoo and then went back to the park. We left around 2 p.m. and X-man fell asleep in the back of the car. It was a lot of fun, and I'd do it again in a flash. I really wish the Urbana Park District had decided to create something more like the splash park in its three proposals. Mostly, it's nice that families can get the water play they need on a hot day -- for FREE.

Our trip last week to East Peoria to Splashdown was also a success. Again, it was less of a water park and more like a spray park, however there was a lazy river and a small lap pool. The nice part about Miller Park is that the spray playground is free, where as Splashdown is $8 per adult, $6 per child and $3 for spectator (if someone doesn't want to get wet).

My mom is in town, so she got to go with us to the park today. The kids were bounding to and fro but she sat at the picnic table in the shade watching everyone coming and going, which was nice.

Our room in the basement is framed. I'm not sure when the drywall folks will appear.

We're leaving for Canada on Thursday. MacTroll has a meeting in the Bay area, so he's going to fly from SFO to Detroit, where X-man and I are going to pick him up at 4 p.m. Then he can drive from Detroit to Toronto. On Friday, we're going to visit Toronto Island beach and then take X-man on a bike ride to the Rectory Café and then to Center Island... although, we might have to reverse that, since he'll go crazy if he sees the rides and we don't stop. :-)

Sad Noodle: Ever since my diagnosis with DDD, I've been wondering how my racing schedule was going to change. The truth is that I have no idea how my body is going to respond day to day, and it's making me very frustrated and angry that one day it's like nothing happened and the next day I'm barely able to stand in my kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cereal. Things get better when I move, so I keep walking. My life demands mobility... and my condition will only get worse if I don't keep the weight off and don't move. But holy cow, it's depressing. I kept telling myself that if I could show up and finish the park district triathlon (which was a swim through the lazy river, a small bike ride and a 2-mile run) tomorrow, I would be okay to do the try-a-tri in Toronto.

Well, here I am. I can't cross my legs without my back pulling. I could hardly walk today. After 40 minutes I was spasming to the point of insanity at 8 a.m. this morning, even after taking something for the pain. It's great when it's fine. And it sucks when it's out. And I don't get any choice as to when things happen. But it also means I'm going to have to pass on both triathlons.

As it turns out, I'm not Wonder Woman. And this pisses me off quite completely.

Thanks to Kids Place Live for introducing me to the Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle song.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday at Home

My mom is visiting this week, and I'm trying to come up with things we can all do together today. I have Physical Therapy at 10 a.m. for my back, but I was thinking about taking her and X-man to the movies after lunch. I think I'd want to see Despicable Me, but X-man has his eyes on the Cats and Dogs movie.

We have a few errands to run this afternoon since friends are coming over to grill out, as one of our  friends who moved away last summer is in town for a visit.

It's supposed to be cooler outside today, but I still think it's too muggy for a lot of outdoor time. Tomorrow we're heading to Bloomington to do the outdoor spray park and the Miller Park Zoo.

My body seems to be recovering a bit from the ugliness of the last 7 weeks. It still doesn't like to run on pavement, but a lot of that is due to the almost 2 months where I haven't been running and a complete mental block. I'm afraid it will go out again, and my life demands mobility. I haven't taken an Aleve in four days, which is nice.

Parenting struggle today: As a kid, is it emotionally harder to A) Know your friends don't want to play with you? or B) Know your friends don't want to play with you but also understand the only reason they're allowing you in their games is because an adult told them they had to?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Heavy on the Angst: Damn Pop Music

In high school, I ran across the video for Tori Amos' "Silent All These Years" on MTV (remember when they played music videos?) and I fell in love with the redheaded musician. To date she's the person I've seen most frequently in concert. Some of the concerts were way better than others. My opinion is that when it's just Tori and a piano, I leave happy. When there's a band, I hate it because they play so loudly I can't hear her. And lately she's been doing this screwy thing with her voice. I guess when you sing the same songs for 20 years, you'll do anything to make them different.

I remember working a Sunday alone at the North Suburban Library (it was closed on Sundays) and having that song on repeat while I danced around the library like some kind of Breakfast Club character when I needed a break from shelf reading (kind of like library inventory and spring cleaning).

"Sometimes I hear my voice, I hear my voice, and it's been here, silent all these years."

I have these moments when I get waist deep in considering the status quo of my existence. Is what I feel is good about my life really good, or is it settling? Have I become too comfortable in the life I've created? Am I being taken for granted? Am I living up to my potential? Is there really a connection between myself and the world around me and the people in my life? Is it real, or is it all my imagination? Why do I get so lonely, if I'm so social? Am I really social? Or do I just scratch the surface so I can point at the relationships as proof that I'm trying but not actually invest myself in them emotionally so it's easier to walk away? In other words, do I deliberately plant myself next to the door for a clean getaway? And really,  What is a friend?

And let's face it, John Cusack was right when he asked the question in High Fidelity, "Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

I've never been any good at communicating negative emotion. Hell, I married someone so even keel that I knew confrontation was never going to be part of the equation. Sure we argue, but he never pushes those buttons. The ones that would drive me insane. It's a matter of trust that he knows what they are, but he stays clear. I'm always hoping he does it out of respect rather than fear. But it's a relationship based in reality and not in fantasy.

But listening to Tori always put things in perspective. Then along came LizFiona, Vanessa, and Sara... I'll even let Sarah McLachlan into the group, even though her interviews drive me crazy. The whole mess of them puts me in a kind of psychological funk.

Damn those amazing women and their pianos... But for the record that Ben Gibbard, he's not any help either.

This has to explain my leave of pop music for the last year in exchange for the loud noise that pumps through my iPod for workouts. It doesn't ask anything of me emotionally... It just helps me sweat a lot. But that probably makes me avoid-y on all kinds of fronts.

I think I need a Zach Braff break through.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fast Food Drive Thru thoughts...

I've been reading a lot about how unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy foods making it difficult for people living in poverty to obtain food that is nutritious. In Champaign, the Champaign Farmer's Market on Thursday is involved with the WIC program. But I also know other families who I see making WIC choices at the supermarket that leave with a cart full of nothing but processed, sodium-infused carbohydrates. And it makes me think...

The government (particularly in Illinois) taxes the hell out of things that aren't good for you as a financial way to deter you from something. Cigarettes, alcohol, even regular soda carries an extra tax in my state. And I wonder if it's showing any kind of decrease in behavior. In New York, they've had the law where chain restaurants have to put the calorie count on their menus for all of their meals -- but research has shown that not only are these calories count off (and by off I mean higher) by up to 30 percent (it all depends on who is making your food) but also that people don't seem to give a damn -- unless they're making choices for their children. A federal law mandating this kind of calorie info be printed in the menus of all chain restaurants is supposed to be in effect for all states by 2012, barring any legal issues.

So, as I sat in line at Dairy Queen the other day, making a choice to have a small cherry sundae for 280 calories. I wondered: what if the cost of things equalled their caloric value minus some kind of healthy incentive. Take the miserable Tier system for prescription drugs. Can't we make fruit (particularly the organic kind) available to everyone by labeling it Tier 1? While making microwave pizzas and Combos a tier 3? What if you could get 12 oz of organic spinach for 60 cents but pay $14.40 for 64 oz of leaded soda? Not that I'm at all advocating this as a real structure, but what it makes me wonder is if this kind of pay for the crap you eat was introduced would Americans, who have created such a emotional and anatomical dependence on food making their brains chemically happy while duping their bodies into obesity, still continue to eat at the same rate? I mean, I watched some guy unhappily pay $9.50 for a pack of Camels at Walgreen's this week. That's 1/10 of my weekly food budget for two adults, one kid, a dog and 4 cats... And as a country, I realize that we're eating ourselves to death.

Hell, maybe if we all started smoking, we wouldn't have any money to eat. Or would we just continue to charge things to our credit cards and look away in denial?

If you're wondering where this is going, I kind of am, too. :-P But mostly, I'm procrastinating the idea that I have to get out on my bike and do 9 miles. I want to go, but somehow I don't feel woken up yet. Maybe it's time for me to start some kind of friendship with caffeine?

Oooh, wait, that would be another way to trigger my brain. Is nothing thought typically American safe to do any more when it comes to food?