Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fitness Realities

At Weight Management on Wednesday, a trainer from the Carle Training Group came and talked to us. He focused on the importance of weight training for overall health. Most of the people in WM tend to be over the age of 45, so he addressed the issue that after 35, your bones don't really absorb calcium any more. What you have, is what you have... So you want to use weight training to keep those bones strong. He also talked about how it's virtually impossible for women to bulk up too considerably and that any exercise regime that you undertake needs to change every six weeks or your body will become used to it and plateau.

He talked about other things, but these were the highlights that made it into my notebook. The one big eye opener... as your body ages, you will need to increase the calorie burning of your workouts by 10 percent each year just to stay the same.

I raised my hand and said, "So, by the time I'm 70, all I'll be able to do is move for 15 hours a day in order to fit into my pants?"

He looked at me, smiled and pretty much nodded before going into talking about how the metabolism slows down with age. How menopause can affect the body, etc., etc. I kind of tuned that out as I thought about who would still be active at 70 and be willing to work out with me for 15 hours a day. Madonna will be 86, maybe by then we'll finally have gotten acquainted.

In other news, I ran my first half marathon today. I got to see a WM buddy at the start who was doing a 10k. Then I got to see a neighbor and a former Millikin student of mine. It was chilly out there waiting to start, but the weather was perfect. I took a GIANT chance and changed up my attack plan for the run. Instead of running the first mile and then walking .2 and running .8 for the whole thing, I ran until I couldn't run any more, stopping only to take in my Gu and G2 at miles 4, 7.5 and 11. I ended up making it to mile 8.5ish before I started the walk/run trend as originally planned. Of course, it doesn't help that Nike+ somehow dropped the GPS at mile 1.5... so I have no pretty map of my run with my paces to show you. I can tell you that the 25 mph wind coming over the hill at mile 6.5 was met by me with a "whatever" but the three additional "hills" where we bottlenecked at Meadowbrook made my heart sink. Not enough to curse them because it wasn't their fault that they got paired with the wind. But it didn't stop others. That whole park was nothing but runners whining, "Fast and Flat course my ass!"

I also know that my heel hurt mildly until mile 10, and then it caught fire, so I walked more at the end than I wanted too. I can also tell you that I felt nothing for the last .4 miles but glee. And I was ever so happy to see MacTroll and X-man on the corner of Pennsylvania and Fourth Streets.

I was also happy to run with and see my friends along the route. But I was sad that the crowds were not nearly as inspiring as I would have liked. I'm a big cheerer. I believe in being loud and proud at these kinds of things. But when I passed by most people (if they didn't have cowbells), they were sitting silently staring.

I still feel smart for packing my own aid. I know others didn't because I felt like I was the only one with a water bottle, but by the time I got to the stations they had mostly fruit Gu left. And vomiting was NOT in the cards today. :-) I'll stick with my Chocolate Outrage, thank you.

Anyway, here's the photo MacTroll clicked of me at mile 12.5 just before I hugged X-man. As you can see, I was deliriously happy.

Oh, and my time... for those who are curious was 2:32:11. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blood pressure is 96/60, really?

I'm pretty cool in the blood pressure department according to every doctor I've ever seen. Even when I was obese, my BP never got higher than 115/70. But over the last year or so, I've been coming in on the low end. There are jokes about how I must be the most relaxed person ever, but lately I've been pretty high strung.

It should be enough to have the life I have. It should be enough to have a wonderful spouse and an awesome kid and to take pride in raising him and working together as a family. But here's the deal, I want so much more. I have no idea how to sit still, but I do know when I'm happy.

I am happy at work, for example. Next fall I'll be teaching five mornings a week, and I'm thrilled about it. My job is just a tad over minimum wage. You have to really want to be there, because the money isn't what makes my job worth my while. It's the children, and their families. I love it, and I'm excited to be in charge of a classroom rather than floating from one room to another.

But on weeks when MacTroll is on travel, X-man gets tired of getting up earlier to go to work with me. He doesn't grasp the idea that when he acts like he's 2 and has a hard time putting on sweat pants and a t-shirt and a pair of sandals and wants to fight with me about whether he's a big boy or not -- that I don't put up with that crap. Yet, he attempts it, at least one of the days when I go to work every week. Today's tantrum was on top of the fact that he checked out a Scooby Doo DVD from the Tolono Library. When he got it, MacTroll let him play it on my desk in the kitchen, which is never a good idea. First of all, X-man has his own hand-me down computer in MacTroll's office. Secondly, I work at my desk. There's crowds of stuff on it waiting to get filed right now. And last of all, I've asked specifically for him NOT to watch TV there. Alas, all of these things had a consequence (shocker, I know!), and the case for the Scooby Doo video is no where to be found. If I had to guess, I'd say that it fell into the paper recycling bin next to my desk and that MacTroll didn't notice at 5 a.m. when he put out the garbage. We still have the DVD, but I made it clear to the boys in my "don't eff with mama" tone this morning that they would be taking the DVD back to the library tomorrow and they would be sharing the cost to pony up whatever fee we had to pay to replace the case (yes, we at least still have the DVD). And, of course, the DVD will be one day late.

This was followed by my son insisting that his show and tell (a small tub of bakugans) was too big for him to carry. And that was followed by the fact that he wanted to take a coloring book for his nap bag, but he forgot it. And it was my fault.

So by the time I arrived to school, I'm pretty sure my blood pressure wasn't 96/60.

Oh, and there's something I forgot to tell you. The dog woke me up at 3 a.m. to go out last night. When I stepped out of bed it felt like I was stepping on a large rock on my heel. That's totally not cool. If I have issues with the fascia at the bottom of my foot, I'm going to scream. But this is what I get for allowing Carle to make me their half-marathon Weight Management poster child on Facebook, right? If I had waited until after the half to show them the shirt I had thanking them (which may, or may not be covered by my number, I'll figure it out tonight), my foot wouldn't hurt. But this is me, and I am clearly jinxed.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Busy Day

I did a lot of normal today. Work, housekeeping, bill paying. I was so tired I took X-man out to dinner because I was just too tired to microwave him something (how sad is that?) Afterwards, I got a run in on the track while he was in the play room at the Rec Center. Then we practiced our jumping instep kick for 15 minutes before he played basketball with an awesome big kid in the open gym while I finished my 5k run. The staff at the Rec Center even lowered a basket for him and we found a mini basketball (which made me feel like Michael Jordan).

Afterwards we came home and my favorite part of the whole day happened.

Check it out...

And the Canada puzzle is in English and French, just as it should be. It was less challenging than the U.S. puzzle because each individual state is pretty much a puzzle piece (and when your child sits on it, they shift) but X-man liked it all the same. He was particularly fond of the fact that we could build the U.S. and put it directly under Canada, "where it belongs." I know he meant on the globe, but at the same time, I thought it was pretty cute. Now if Melissa and Doug make one for other continents and countries, we'll really be in business. Because I'm pretty sure after doing this puzzle about five times, he'll be able to name more provinces than his father. :-) 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Goofy Chests

X-man was born with Pectus Excavatum (aka: a funnel chest). So far as we know, all of his inside parts are functioning okay and aren't horribly displaced by having less space than a person with a "normal" chest. But X-man has started asking questions about why his chest looks different, and lately, when we go swimming at the indoor pool he wants to wear a rash guard. The truth is that if he lies on his back, his little chest dent could hold about a half cup of water in it. It's much more noticeable now than when this photo was taken at 2.

Our pediatrician let us know when he was an infant that it was mostly a cosmetic situation as long as the organs had enough space to operate regularly. Usually, children become worried about it in middle school when the depth of the chest can actually worsen due to the adolescent development. The operation to fix it, currently includes putting a rod made of metal into his body to bend the chest back out over a lengthy period of time (12 months or so), and is recommended to be done between age 12 and 18 for children with moderate to severe indentation, which doesn't sound fun at all.

But he's not the only one with some kind of chest deformity. Since I lost my weight, I've noticed that my xiphoid process sticks out and is crooked. I'm going to blame the crookedness on X-man and his giant feet pushing at my ribs every moment of every day from month 7 of my pregnancy on because I have no memory of having it protrude before, but when I lie flat on my back, this nub of a bone sticks out. Kind of like how I discovered when doing pilates that my coccyx is a bit wonky and pointing out (I'm going to blame that a little on X-man and his giant infant body, too), which makes certain exercises difficult or too painful to do. But other obese folks have also written that after losing a lot of body weight, theirs started sticking out, too. The idea being that the excess fat might have also helped push that part of the cartilage forward.

I don't have a neat o'keen photo of my chest condition (and even if I did, I probably wouldn't share). So I'm going to use this lady with like zero percent body fat. I have no idea who she is. And please don't think that anything on my body looks anything like hers, particularly in a bikini, other than the fact that her XP sticks out as much as mine does. I wonder if it hurts her to lie face down on a yoga mat, too? 

X-man understands that everyone looks different, and that being different is what makes us special. But he also understands that children have a tendency to point and stare at what is different. He knows this, because we've had to have the conversation about being sensitive and not blurting out comments about how someone is different even to ask questions. (Calling a man a she for having long hair, asking questions about why a man looks pregnant, asking why someone's legs don't work when they're in a wheelchair, etc. He can ask all the questions he wants when we're alone together. ) I'm hoping that by getting pool passes this summer, he'll grow more comfortable with his own body. I'll probably still have him in rash guards most of the time, just simply because I did marry the whitest man in America, and he totally passed that virgin snow skin onto our kid, but at the same time, I'm going to see if I can get him out at the pool for swim lessons without the guard, and work on some self acceptance. 

So if you see his sunken chest or my sticking out xiphoid process at the pool from my (hopeful) attempt at wearing my first bikini this summer, please don't stare at our chests. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Day I Almost Rescued a Baby Catfish

When I come across a loose dog or cat, I immediately pick it up off the street and take it to Champaign County Animal Control after I drive it to the nearest vet's office to see if it's been microchipped (because let's face it they never have tags on their collars). If it's been chipped, usually the clinic is happy to hold the animal after it makes contact with the owners or I'll drive the animals to the appropriate homes and meet the owners there. I do this because it's what I would want others to do if they saw my cats or dog roaming around in the street where they could get hurt, hunted or sick.

A few years ago, I was out for a walk when I witnessed a wild rabbit get hit by a minivan in Prairie Fields. Son of a bitch didn't even stop. I'm sure he had some kind of angst ridden story about the damn things eating his bulbs, but really, it's a bunny. I approached the bunny slowly, picked it up by the back of its neck, carried it home two blocks, put it in a cat carrier and took it to the Wildlife Animal Clinic. It was stunned and a bit bloody but breathing. I figured if they couldn't help it survive, the least they'd do is euthanize it so it wasn't in pain. Because I definitely don't have what it takes to put something out of its misery.

But today I had to deal with something out of my realm. Something not cute and fuzzy, and as I've been reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer  I'm trying to realign my priorities that all living things, even when they're not cute and fuzzy, shouldn't suffer.

Our house backs into Dana Colbert Park in Savoy, and since we moved here in 2007, there has always been a drainage issue between the entrance to the park and our subdivision. The entrance to the park floods along the east side of the road. It looks like it's overflow from when the water level in the lake gets too high. Then it spills into one ditch and then into another. The second ditch happens to run right behind the plastic fence that borders the empty lots across from my driveway. When that second ditch gets too high, the water doesn't have anywhere to go, so it rushes over the sidewalk in the middle of the fence and then runs into my street and down the grate.

Sitting on that grate gasping it's big, ugly, whiskered mouth today was a small catfish. (No, this is not an actual photo of the fish on the grate.) It was thin, but about as long as my forearm, and it was stuck.

Well, crap. I sat in my car and stared at it for a minute and then my dog/cat knowledge sunk in. If there's a dog or cat that I can't get to, or if I have my child in my car (because I don't put strange animals in a car with my child present), I call animal control. But do you call animal control for a catfish? Do you call a wildlife group? I am not a fan of catfish. The idea of touching the fish repulsed me. But I felt compelled to help the poor thing, so I looked to see if SuperShawn's truck was in the driveway, in case I could pass on the handling to someone less squeamish. No luck with the truck. Why couldn't it have been a bluegill?

Sigh. I stepped out of the car and into a shallow part of the giant puddle, when suddenly a dozen or so SMALLER fish shot from the river that was flowing down and around the sidewalk between my wet shoes and into the grate. Ooooh, the fish are coming from the lake at Colbert Park. That's not good at all. the Parks department would NOT be happy.

My brain suddenly decided to use older brain cells from when I fished as a kid. I decided I'd just fill a bucket with some of the water spillage, put the fish in the bucket and drive it over to the lake to let it go. Sweet idea, right? Why didn't I do that 5 minutes ago?

But when I returned, the fish had managed to flip vertical so his tail was in the air and his big ugly mug was in the grate bars, it wiggled hard and then -- swoosh -- off it went down the sewer.

Now, I know (as I mentioned before in my anti-lawn chemical post) that we don't want send foreign things down the grates. Things like washing cars in our driveways or putting pesticides on our lawns is harmful because when it rains, the water rushes all the dirt, grit and pollution into the drains which go directly to our rivers and streams, where it does more environmental damage. So I kind of hope all those little guys make it to somewhere better than a bunch of crazy pipes laced with TruGreen chemlawn crap.

When I got home from work, I sent an e-mail to the mayor of Savoy about the situation. He responded to me and forwarded it to the appropriate folks with the village within an hour, so I'm waiting on their reply. Hopefully there won't be a next time, but at least I won't sit there like a moron in my SUV wondering what to do about rescuing a fish. Now I know. Get the bucket... take it back to the lake... but before then I should buy some freaking rain boots so I don't soak my feet and socks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dear Sir, I Like You. Please Don't Kill Yourself Working Out

I work out at my little local rec center. I love the people there. But since I currently only have a paying job two mornings a week, I'm there with a legion of retirees and a few stay-at-home moms. The moms are usually in a rush to get their toddlers into the child care room and then to the class so they can get them home and to their morning naps by 10 a.m.

The retirees and I get some time to chat. I don't mind the chatter before class or in the cardio room, but there is one man that I refuse to go into the weight room with not because of what he says, but because of how he works out.

I'm quite sure as I watch him huff and puff and count his reps that he's either going to a) throw his back out, b) give himself a hernia or c) have a heart attack. It's too much weight. It's improper form. It's testosterone at its worst.

You might think I'm getting carried away. But one of the retirees that used to walk on the treadmill passed away earlier this year. I'm not sure what he was doing... Over the weekend, one of the main landowners in Central Illinois passed away as well. The chatter in the cardio room this a.m., was that he had a heart attack. They were both sad that he was only 65, because one of them was 66 and graduated the year ahead of the deceased from the same high school.

Between my iPhone and the company, it makes 60 minutes on a stationary bike on Alpine Mode go pretty quickly. Almost 20 miles in an hour was a good workout. Now I just need to get it to translate to an actual bike. :-) My problem is that I get way too distracted out in the world. Too many things to look at, which is funny, because mostly, I'm just biking through farmland.

Of course, now that I've blogged this, I'll be the one who a) throws out her back, b) gives herself a hernia or c) has a heart attack. Because that's how Loosey's life is played.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Living in the Suburbs

"Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same."
-- "Little Boxes" By Malvina Reynolds

This might surprise some people who know how much I love little Savoy, but I didn't want to live here. In fact, I wanted to live in Southern Champaign in Devonshire north of Windsor. I wanted trees and young families and a house that was about 1,800 square feet with a small backyard. 

When MacTroll and I came to town and looked at a house that I liked and then drove down to look at a house that was more his style (newer and bigger), I had to make a choice. I realized that it was likely that I would be taking care of a house by myself, possibly with a small person or small people in tow. 

Suddenly, spending my weekends scooping baby trees out of my gutters that fell from the behemoth oak tree above looked not so appealing. Also, spending the first three months trying to peel 50-year-old wall paper off of the kitchen walls didn't look like it was going to be a lot of fun. So, I broke my gut feeling for an "old" home and settled for being the third owner of a medium-sized, 4-year-old home in Prairie Fields. And, to be truthful, it was really easy to take care of -- once I revived whatever the people who lived there before me did to the grass and the gardens and the trees. 

I did it by picking up the phone and calling a lawn company and by getting on my hands and knees (Rogers will attest) and weeding and planting the front garden. After the grass was under control, I canceled the lawn care except for the grub spray. I felt terribly guilty about dumping chemicals on my lawn that I knew would run off and go down into the sewers into our streams and rivers. In many ways, I am totally my father's daughter this way. But the work had to continue past green grass, so I ripped three dead trees out of the backyard and tried to make things go in the backyard, too. It was a long process. I even got around to staining the fence in the backyard, so it didn't look all old and beaten. It was a lot of work in the four years that we lived there. We also painted the walls inside the house to be less bland. Manilla colored walls just weren't for me. And to be truthful KTDID did way more work on that house than MacTroll did.

Now we live in a bigger house on a corner lot six blocks south of the old place in a different "new" subdivision. But I still go running through the old neighborhood. My favorite time to run is after 6 p.m. when everyone is barbecuing in Prairie Fields. My least favorite time to run is between 9 and 11 a.m. when the lawn companies are out spraying or fertilizing. The smell is so obnoxious I try to hold my breath for at least 4 houses before I get to where they're spraying and at least two afterwards (and that takes some effort). 

We were the first folks to move into Prairie Meadows.. And I watch each spring as the lawn companies come and spray all the lawns around my hood. They look beautiful. They're a luscious dark green with hardly any spots. But I also notice that the owners of the houses are out mowing 1-2 times a week. Where as with my not so "Agrestic-perfect" lawn, I'm out once every three weeks. That's not to say that I don't have a lawn guy who comes and fertilizes and does other lawn control via natural, earth-friendly methods.  I use Maske's Organic Gardening and Lawn Care out of Decatur. He's trying to help me keep grubs under control using the natural Milky Spore method rather than chemicals. And for the last two years, our lawn has been so/so. By normal comparisons it's okay, but in Agrestic comparisons, it looks shoddy. 

Part of me feels guilty about this. It's the part that spent hours in the backyard today digging up dandelions. It's never been this bad. Usually I can count 5-12 dandelions, but the seeding must have happened during a prime wind blow from the open field behind us, because our backyard is littered in them. I dumped 5 wheelbarrows full of weeds into the empty lots across the street. It's insane, because I still have 1/3 of the backyard to do. 

I also got in trouble last year with Mr. Maske for mowing too "low." I was creating burn spots because the grass was cut to close and I don't really water my lawn regularly enough to protect it. If it's once in a while, I'm okay with it. But I don't get up every morning at 6 and move my sprinkler for two hours in the summer. In response, I raised the height of the blades on the mower today, which did nothing to help out trimming down the weeds for me. 

So, here I am, doing what's "green" for the Earth, but I still feel terribly guilty that it doesn't look better when I look at the rest of my hood. Plus, where my yard meets my neighbors' is very high and in need of trimming from their super duper fertilizer pesticide, but I'm just letting it grow, because if I trim that spot, I'll have to do the rest of it.

Who knew that I'd have a whole "Keeping Up with the Joneses" issue about something as stupid as lawn care. Sigh. I know, I'm disappointed in myself, too. But that feeling of comparison is totally there. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

There's a Reason Why It's Called Yard WORK

The entire family spent 5 hours in the backyard today working. MacTroll scooped dog poop. I weeded the sandbox and then X-man helped me weed all of our box gardens while MacTroll ran to Wally Mart to pick up 20 bags of sandbox sand. Then while he filled up the sandbox, I ran to Wally Mart to find out they weren't selling mushroom compost this year. I LOVE mushroom compost, but not enough to drive somewhere else to get it. So, I picked up some Organic Garden Soil with some moss mixed in. We only needed 10 bags of that to fill in the gardens (a lot of sand and dirt blows off during the winter). X-man helped me spread the soil and then he helped me plant tomatoes, peppers and herbs all over the place.

When the planting was done he got to take care of his favorite part -- "The Hose." So, while he watered, I went around looking at the perennials. Turns out some of the strawberries that I got from Me and My Boys last fall actually took, but not where I was expecting. I have some tiny breed of strawberries that are "non-runners" in a little garden behind our hot tub. I put about 12 of Me and My Boys' transplants there -- and only three took. I thought because the other strawberries were thriving there that they'd do okay, but clearly I was wrong.

But then I put six of her transplants in the front "whale-shaped" garden and five of them took there, which is awesome, because I've had a dickens of a time getting anything to grow up there that's not sedum. My hope is that as the years go by, her strawberries will run and take over the whole garden. Because really, I could eat my weight in strawberries every summer.

Our raspberry bush is in its third season and it's going gang busters. Hopefully, this year will be the first year we get more than just four cups of berries from it.

We're also going to try something new and get our mulch from the Urbana Landscape Recycling Center. I'd stayed away from them in years past because when CARE used the Meadowbrook Garden, they wouldn't let you use their own mulch there because it wasn't "clean enough." That sent up warning signals in my mind about chemicals, glass and plastic. But it turns out they have several different kinds of mulch, some of which they say does well on inclines (and ooh daisy, I have a bit of an incline erosion issue next to the driveway). And -- it's stupid cheaper for something that is just going to blow or get washed away every year due to high winds and crazy amounts of snow.

Why not try rocks in windy Savoy? Well, as my child proved today when he threw a rock at a girl at a friend's house (He wasn't the first child to throw one, but he should have known better) we're not out of the rock throwing phase. And I'd much rather replace mulch each year than windows.

Anyway, the Urbana price per cubic yard for the premium hardwood mulch, in bulk, is $20. I need five cubic yards for all the gardens. Last year I ordered five cubic yards from Country Arbours and paid almost $300. So, we'll see if saving the $200 is worth it. I'm hoping we'll spend it on one of the trees I'd like to plant. I would like to add a tree in the front yard, one in the back, and I think I'm going to replace the two "Arbor Day" saplings I planted when we moved in because we didn't have the funds after building the house to get "big trees" then.

In other news, The SuperFlynns' concrete guy from Concrete Evolutions in Bloomington is coming over to look at our patio this week. We have a ground squirrel that burrowed a home under our patio. His burrowing apparently was so intricate that it is causing part of our patio to sink in and crumble like a fault line. We had always talked about putting in a walkway from the driveway to the back patio, so maybe we'll just have them get rid of the ground squirrel and get us a new patio, too. One that makes some space for MacTroll and his smoker and maybe a larger seated area. I mean, in the long run, it means less grass for me to mow, right?

Speaking of, I didn't get to mow my patch of dandelions in the backyard today. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice enough for me tomorrow, so that after my run, I can at least mow the back.

I meant to take "before" and "after" photos of all the work we did today. But I forgot. And then it was dark. But hopefully in 50-85 days we'll have salsa for everyone. :-)

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Free Day

"Mommy, Aren't all Fridays 'good' Fridays?"

Today, I woke to the alarm at 7:30 and got up and ran 4.5 miles at the track. It was supposed to be a 60-minute run rather than a 45-minute run, but I was a bit lazy because it was a solid gray, rainy morning and who doesn't love to snooze to that? I mean, really. My son slept until 9 a.m. This is unheard of. But I totally took it.

He had a small breakfast and then he went and played the computer while I did dishes and laundry and at 10:45 we headed out to McDonald's to the play place. It was a decent playtime until about 11:30 when masses of parents showed up. We endured until we saw our friend get pushed backwards out of the door of the Playplace and fifteen mothers made a gasping noise while the little guy was scooped up into his mother's arms. At that point, I decided, it was time for us to vacate.

Then we ran some errands picking up some special cheese for MacTroll and home for me to eat lunch. Afterwards we went to the library for new books and then to the movies to see Rio. By the time we got home, X-man was tired. He sat down in front of his new Scooby Doo video from the library and almost fell asleep at my desk. So, we didn't make it to Tae Kwon Do practice. When he felt more lively, he showed me his side kick and his jumping side kick and they were pretty perfect, well as perfect as they're going to get for a five year old. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed.

I tend to like to keep on the move with my kid. But he also likes to just hang out at home and play Legos, which is normally fine with me, but when he finds out that I'm not clued into everything in the make pretend world that he and his father have created, he basically tells me that he'd rather play Legos with Daddy, which is what the boys are doing upstairs while I wait for Freak and J-lady to pick my butt up to head over to see the Brat Pack in Urbana tonight.


And I'm back. Basically, I think I partied with 1/2 of the Westview PTA. :-) And it was awesome. And I danced. Well, mostly I danced because I wanted the guy with no teeth to stop talking to me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Well, Tonight was a First

For Christmas my sister gave MacTroll a book called Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat. She also gave us 3 lbs. of frozen rabbit, which is really just one rabbit.

It's been sitting in my freezer while I worked on what to make with it. So tonight, I made Rabbit a la Moutard. I took my bunny out of the freezer and defrosted it, and then I started to cut it into the required number of pieces.

Here's the thing about rabbit (and yes, you can thank me for not taking photos), its muscles are mainly leg and back. There's no meaty breast like a chicken. Now, I've cut apart bone-in birds before. Mostly turkeys and chickens. I've seen the giant pieces of cow and pigs. But I've never really been to a pig roast before. All of my meat is delivered to me by the butchers, store keepers or giant conglomerate producers in a post butchered state. I even request my trout to come headless and tail-less as much as possible.

But I had a problem cutting apart the bunny. When I told MacTroll why, he nodded and then he suddenly left the room for a phone call for work. Leaving me with my problem.

This was my problem -- the little bunny body looked an awful lot like a cat body. We used to call Looseyfur the cat, Bunny soft. We say the same thing to our cat Clawdio. Pulling the legs that were tucked into the chest cavity out almost made me vomit. Seeing the little heart and the liver didn't do me any favors either.

I shut my eyes and told myself to stop making the bunny into my pets. Then I cut it apart and spent two hours on that recipe.

MacTroll ate it and said he had a hard time telling it wasn't chicken. I couldn't eat it for many reasons, so I had my prepared meal from the cupboard. But if I couldn't eat it, I didn't feel right giving it to X-man. So, he got a turkey hot dog, which I have no problem with because it doesn't look like a fuzzy bunny cat thing, Dr. Praeger's sweet potato shapes and some applesauce. He gave the thumbs down to Dr. Praeger's.

After dinner, I thought about my reaction to meat looking like the actual animal it came from and like an animal it merely resembled. I have cooked lots of meat -- a lot, but I've never gotten the urge to vomit before when cooking. So I have to ask myself, why it registers with the bunny, but I could give a shit about birds, cows and pigs? If I had a connection to any of those animals, would I immediately jump into a vegetarian lifestyle?

Is this when a person starts to realize she might perpetually have been living in a state of denial? Or does she just write off that particular kind of meat?

That said, there was a much cuter bunny-related news. X-man's class had their egg hunt today. :-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Team in Training

Tonight, I went to the informational meeting on the local Team in Training group. Since we're 140 miles south of Chicago, we don't have the marketing drive downstate for getting people to sign up for fundraising opportunities like an urban area. TNT coaches you to do some kind of physical feat. In return, they ask you to to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

The lovely part about charities like TNT is that they give you some pretty darn good coaches, a social group to belong to and they take everyone, regardless of your current fitness abilities. Their goal is to help you reach your goal and to raise awareness and money for cancer research along the way.

As you can probably guess, a lot of folks who feel helpless watching their loved ones fight cancer often come to groups like this as a way to feel like they're doing something positive to support the person or the people they love. It's a way to feel like you're giving something back.

As far as athletic endeavors go, I was a bit discouraged. They had five or six running events that they would train you for. TNT is so big that they get a certain number of spots at marathons and half marathons that routinely sell out. This year, the Central Illinois area has spots at the Chicago Half Marathon in September as well as the Chicago marathon and half marathon in October. You can also get a spot at the Nike Woman's marathon or half marathon in San Francisco in October. The amount you have to fundraise depends on if you want TNT to pay for flights, hotel, food, etc. as part of of your experience. But in the end, even after your overhead costs to get you to your event and to put you up, 75 percent of all money raised goes straight into research. The other races they had were ALSO in the Chicagoland area, but they were smaller. All of the events were running events. If you were interested in a century bike ride or a triathlon you are out of luck in Central Illinois.

There is one race called the Hot Chocolate 15k in Grant Park on Nov. 5. It's my kind of race. You run, and then they give you a jacket (no stupid medal), a pallet of food and a cup of melted chocolate for some fondue with a side of hot chocolate to drink. And at the 15k distance, you might actually burn enough calories to warrant such a food fest (versus the Krispy Kreme race where you run a short distance only to be force to consume a dozen donuts and then run the distance to the finish). The fundraising for the HC 15k is only $500. But I came home and thought about it and decided that a) I pay my Second Wind Running club dues every year, maybe this summer I should show up for some weekly fun runs with them or with the Kennekuk Road Runners in Danville, because, for some reason, I've been intimidated to do so -- not feeling like a "real runner." Before I raise money for a social group and a coach, I should, perhaps actually attend what I already paid for. And b) I went in really wanting for them to offer some other kind of race besides running. I mean, no, I haven't done a marathon, but really... it's just running -- longer. Maybe something new would be refreshing, ya know? And c) I could totally just run the Hot Chocolate on my own and pay the $64 registration fee and not bother with fundraising.

So, I think I'm going to skip it this round. What was funny in the meeting is that it was only myself and one other person, yet there were four TNT folks there. They were all very nice. But when I said I was interested in some non-running events, the marketing focused people kind of stopped addressing me and only looked at the other person. But after the meeting, the coach and one of the participants (who has completed 72 marathons!) came up and talked to me about other local resources that might be helpful as I pursue other kinds of sports.

And that was very nice, indeed.

So, no TNT for me right now. Maybe if I move to a bigger, more exciting area, I'll get a chance down the road.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Science of Food

So, after getting disgusted on my last shopping trip using the NuVal system I came across a web site called If you haven't been there before, go and check it out. You can put in the name of any food and find out what ingredients are in it, and it will explain exactly which chemicals are evil and which are not and why. It will also break down the thumbs up and thumbs down parts of the food. Like, for example, Cheerios rates a 67 on a scale of 100. It's low in calories and fat, etc., but it has a high sodium intake. Then you, as the consumer, can balance out which risks you'd like to take and which you wouldn't. If you have allergies in your family it also lists all of the potential allergens in the food that are additives and the nutritional contents.

It not only does products on the shelves, but also things you might eat out...

3-piece Chicken Selects from McDonald's. The chicken is high in protein but also high in sodium. But it also has processed soybean oil which contains something called TBHQ, which is a petroleum-based product that can cause "nausea, vomiting and delirium."

If you're searching for wide egg noodles, as I am this week, the No Yolks looks like a pretty decent choice.  It has a score of 77, no strange ingredients and is high in protein, fiber and enriched with vitamins.

Now to examine a staple. X-man likes chocolate milk. He drinks skim with Hershey's Lite Syrup in it. Turns out Hershey's Lite Syrup ranks a 0. It's high in saturated fats. It contains a bunch of sugar and it has sodium benzoate which is a food preservative and can aggravate asthma, cause headaches and may "increase hyperactivity in affected children." Um, yeah. Gonna need to find a chocolate milk replacement. MacTroll points out that we can make our own with cocoa powder and sugar. Or it looks like the lactose-free 1% already made chocolate milk from Organic Valley is the only chocolate milk that appears to cross into the over 50 mark.  Things you know taste awesome, but aren't any good for you suck. Particularly, if you've kind of lived in denial that something like chocolate milk has to be okay because it has a low-fat milk protein base. Alas... not when you add the crap to it that turns it brown.

It also turns out that I'd actually do a lot better for myself for air popping popcorn which is only white corn kernels (rated 77) versus the 100-calorie bags which are entirely made of of controversial ingredients. Orville Reddenbacher's 100-calorie smart-pop (rated a 29) have hydrogenated oils which contain, "trans fatty acids, which are toxic entities that enter cell membranes, block utilization of essential fatty acids and impede cell functionality. TFAs also cause a rise in blood cholesterol." Pop Secret's 100-calorie bags contain something called Propyl Gallate, which is a preservative. Unfortunately, the preservative has been used in studies on rats and mice and current research suggests (but hasn't proven) that this preservative might cause cancer, so it's suggested to avoid it.

So, if the NuVal system does an okay job of telling you which brands are better than others in terms of overall healthiness. This system goes one step further by including a better overall picture of what you're putting in your mouth rather than just giving you a cheat sheet.

One thing I would recommend is NOT liking foodfacts on Facebook. I liked them two days ago, I've gotten five updates from them, all with scary foods (like Hi C orange juice). I had to comment that maybe they could give some GOOD examples. They gave me lemons... literally. :-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Update on the Boston Bunnies

The three J's (two from my childhood and one sister-in-law) ran the Boston Marathon today. The fourth J still has an injured hip.

Girlbunny J, age 36, ran it in 3:30:36. She was 7,714/18,000 runners and averaged an 8:02 minute/mile pace.

Boybunny J1, age 36, ran it in 3:15:01. He was 3,905/18,000 runners and averaged 7:27 minute/mile pace. Not bad for a soccer player. :-)

Boybunny J2, age 35, ran it in 2:58:30. He was 1,274/18,000 runners and averaged a 6:49 minute/mile pace. He was always a runner, and he's very, very good at it.

Congratulations to the J bunnies! Here's hoping you get to eat everything you want in Boston today. :-) And for Boybunny J3, you're a triathlete... enjoy your bike and your swim while you rehab that hip.

And apparently the rest of us will have to change our names to start with a J to ever run this fast.

I was never an Absolutist

I've been reading books and chatting with people about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles lately. I will admit that most of my inquiry is health-based. I've read enough general nutrition books, studies and articles and met with my own nutritionist enough to know that the more plant-based a diet is the better it is for a person's overall well being.

In comparison to my husband, my life is rather leafy green. In comparison to a vegan, not so much. Meat doesn't come into my house too often, mostly because it's expensive and full of calories for smallish portions. I'd rather spend money on fruits and vegetables because I get to eat more, and let's face it, I'm a bulk eater by nature.

MacTroll on the other hand drools carnivore. And, truthfully, I have absolutely no problem with that. He makes his choices, and the more time he spends in urban environments, the more snotty he is about the high level of quality meats he wants to put in his mouth. He told me years ago that he never gets full when eating meat, but he loves it so. Hmmm, maybe medium rare filet mignon is his trigger the way I drool over baked goods?

Anyway, here's the deal. I haven't been sleeping through the local food movement. It just hasn't really come down in a price range I'm comfortable in dealing with lately. When I say I eat local, I mean I eat what's from my garden. Because the Urbana Farmer's Market is really kind of expensive (but it also starts really soon). I usually buy asparagus, corn on the cob, some lamb brats and pumpkins there throughout the season. But the five times I go each year usually sees me buying X-man his $1 popcorn as I wander around and try to find something I'm willing to pay for and then going home empty handed. It's kind of sad. Because there are foods I eat, but I just can't stomach paying 2-3 times more for them than I would at Meijer -- or even Schnuck's.

I signed up for the CSA program one year when X-man was an infant. I felt very wasteful because it was before my cooking interest started, and they gave me all kinds of things (even recipes for them) that I just didn't have the energy in my postpartum depression to muscle through. I mean, what one person can eat 2 plastic bags of rhubarb? I'd make into pies, and, seriously, never mind that Cooking Light thinks Healthy Pies are possible, they really aren't. I also remember getting 3 pints of gooseberries. Really, what the hell is a gooseberry? Now, I'd probably have no problem concocting meals of inexplicable ingredients that the farmer chose to plant. But really, I'd do much better with a lot more tomatoes and zucchini than six different kinds of salad mixtures. So, I haven't done it again.

This weekend is the turn the dirt weekend in my backyard. It was supposed to be last weekend, but the cold, ass rain made me lazy on Saturday, and then a 12-mile training run and some way more fun social scheduling kind of took precedent on Sunday. But the strange part is that I haven't decided what to plant yet. I know there will be spinach (because we eat it like no one's business, and I was reading something the other day that talked about how buying baby spinach from the store was some how ecologically worse for the earth than beef, but I have to admit, I only got the headline and lede read before I had to move on). I also know there will be plenty of salsa stuff, and the usual mint pot for MacTroll.

But last year, I had the whole thing mapped out by February and in the ground by now. I know I'll have strawberries and raspberries. We'll see how the blueberry bush does. But I keep waiting for my inspiration to come.

I feel the same way about reading these books and making a lifestyle change. Any book that has any kind of shaming involved or that leads with the concept that meat eaters are dumb and cruel and killing the earth, I put back. It might be dumb to eat meat in the copious amounts that most Americans consume it. It might be cruel the way factory farms treat their livestock. And the farm industry, particularly the cattle ranches, are doing a shitload of damage to the environment (more than even the transportation industry that's how potent cornfed cattle farts are), but I need the science I don't need the lecture to make up my mind.

As it is, I also need a lot of flexibility. If I choose a different lifestyle for myself, I'm not forcing the other two humans in my house to have it. But it is true to say that I myself will stop preparing meat-based meals, should I go that way. And if I've learned anything in the last two years it's that the more vegetables I feed MacTroll, the more likely he is to leave the leftovers in the fridge and eat out at Jimmy John's or Potbelly or Subway... If the meat is cooked at home, those fast food trips stop (or at least lessen). Funny how that works. Plus, in certain circumstances (thanks to the Common Ground Coop) I know where the meat comes from and that it's not loaded with antibiotics, nitrates, etc. But they don't carry an extensive list of meats at the Coop in the off Farmer's Season. And it is way, way more expensive to get it from Triple S in the summer than pick up the factory farm stuff at Meijer. (But we do our best with the Smart Chicken.)

My point is that in one of the books (Becoming Vegetarian) I'm reading they talk about the various kinds of vegetarianism. Then they address the stricter vegan, who are often more likely to extend their life choices to not wearing wool or silk or other animal products. I love that this book gives you the facts without the hounding, so far. And that they use the term "Near Vegan." Oooh. Maybe I could be a vegan that still eats honey, wears smartwool socks and has ice cream once a month. I wouldn't eat cheese or meat or eggs but I also probably wouldn't feel compelled to research every ingredient in my facial cream.

I guess when I started I thought I was going to have to choose and be all hard ass about my diet choice. But I don't. Others might consider this flaky, but in this world, I think there are some areas you can cut a person some slack and food is definitely one of them. There are so many choices to be made and so many social, environmental, emotional, economical and nutrition-based reasons to make them.

But the big question is, even though meat isn't a trigger food for me, how much would I miss it? I like its smell. I like its taste. But I don't usually crave it (well, except the 10 months I was pregnant). So, I'll keep reading.

The only other thing that makes me put a book back on the shelf besides shaming, by the way, is any book that promotes veganism as a method of weight loss. Eff that. Been there, done that. And I think mentioning it in a title is just a way to feed off people's insecurities.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Turtle in a World of Rabbits

Tomorrow is the 115th running of the Boston Marathon. I know four people who qualified to compete and registered to go. Out of the four, two are definitely running, one is definitely not running due to injury and one is traveling there hoping to compete, but not sure if she will because of injury.

This is how it is sometimes in the sport of running. You sign up for something, you hope to do it -- and then you don't. Christopher McDougall, who wrote Born to Run, had the same experience. He signed up to run the Boston and was going to do it barefoot, then his father fell ill, and although his family told him his father would want him to run, he realized it might be what his father would say, but it certainly wasn't what his father would do if any of them were sick. So he didn't run. He went and saw his dad.

I will never be fast enough to qualify for road races like the Boston, and that's okay. Runner's World posted a wonderful Bart Yasso quote as their Facebook status before they started their Boston obsessive posting, "I often hear someone say, 'I'm not a real runner.' We are all runners, some of us just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner."

Runner's World must get that although a large number of their subscribers are obsessed with speed and super athletes, that a number of their readers are in it for the fitness or (god forbid) the pleasure. Because they also just released a Runner's World Trail Guide edition this month. In it the Letter from the Editor Josh Dean (who I love because of this article) talks about how he runs, but he's not a runner. He has no personal bests. He doesn't get up and do it every day. But he runs for health (and a fair amount of vanity) around NYC. For this issue of the magazine, he wrote about trail running and suddenly finding out that he loved it because it requires a runner to disconnect from distance because all you can do is concentrate on the path in front of you -- or you'll hurt yourself. This made me laugh, because it is true. Of course, I feel this way about running (or walking for that matter) anywhere. Today, I didn't lift my foot up enough on a 12-mile run and almost lost it on a sidewalk in front of Meadowbrook Park on a virtually flat surface. :-)

I am less than two weeks away from running my first half marathon at the Illinois Marathon. I don't find this a particularly giant athletic feat, as I know half the city is signed up to run it with me. But if you think of where I was fitness-wise the last time I attempted something like this (2001) before I totally screwed my IT bands and the doc told me I'd never run more than a 5k ever again, it's kind of a big deal. I know I'm ready to go. I know that in comparison to my bunny-like neighbors (who will be done and at home showered and eating lunch by the time I finish) that I am totally the tortoise. And as a tortoise, I have a running plan to stick to, because my performance is inconsistent (at best) and is largely based on my mental mood. My hardest run times are, honestly, getting outside to run (particularly in crap weather) and from mile 1.5 to mile 3 and from mile 9.5 to mile 10.5. If I can get through those, I'm doing pretty well. And I haven't had any kind of knee, hip or back pain since I signed up for the half in the middle of March.

For those of you who will be out in Urbana watching the first half of the marathon, I'm guessing I'll be running 12:15 minute miles on average, since I'm doing a walk/run approach. (It's kept me injury free thus far, so I'm sticking to it.) But I'm also sure that I will start toward the back of the pack between the folks that look like runners and the folks that look like walkers. It's my comfort zone at the line up, so it might take me a while to get to the starting line. For those of you far away, I'll be trying to use an iPhone application that will let me communicate where I am in the run for you. I've registered for both 26.2 and Glympse. I haven't figured out which will be better. But I'll try to link it through Facebook, if possible before the start.

Other than that, it's just me, hoping for decent weather, and that I'm not too cranky at the start. I'm not an early riser. I like it when the clock says 7 a.m.

However, on a different note, I will be making rabbit for dinner this week.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bitter Pill

I've spent the majority of today feeling angry and resentful. I was getting so out of hand that I pretty much locked myself in my Loosey room in the basement for two hours this afternoon and tried to wait it out. But what I wanted to do was scream and punch things. Then I wanted to get in my car and drive far, far away.

I've been feeling utterly trapped lately, like I can't move forward and I refuse to go back. There are so many things that are beyond my control, so I've been taking care of what I can control. But it doesn't seem to help much when, in the grand scheme of things, I feel pretty much on my own. Wasn't the point of growing up to create some kind of lifestyle where I didn't feel this way?

I've clearly failed myself, because when I wake up in the morning and go to the bathroom and brush my teeth, I look at myself in the mirror, and I have no idea who that woman is staring back. What does she want? Where is she going in her life? What is she good at? Who are her adult people?

If it wasn't for my son's repeating the same questions over and over again all the time and his persistent, "Mom, mom, mom..." with no actual follow up I'm pretty sure I'd go through most days never talking to anyone.

I guess it is what it is. But it feels horrible.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Eyes are Starting to Glaze Over

X-man is a big boy. We're moving beyond pretend play with superheroes and fire fighters. He's getting into a play area that, I swear, is sucking the play enjoyment out of my head.

I love sports. I love Legos and puzzles and trains. I'll play Trouble from here to eternity. But this Bakugan thing is going to kill me. 

I'm pretty sure it's the precursor to Pok√©man. He got a set for his birthday from the Supers across the street and he LOVES them. He takes them to show and tell at least twice a month. He has three. He BEGS for more (which is why I hate taking my child into a non-grocery store that has toys). He's obsessed. We bought an Easy Reader book at a Scholastic Book Fair so I could figure out exactly what the hell they are. We got another one tonight when we were at Barnes and Noble for Books by the Bushel that explains how they brawl. 

And, yes, now my child knows words like brawl, capture, defeat, etc. Woot! on the vocabulary lesson. But now he wants to see the cartoon. And my brain nearly died in my head watching the Lego movie on Hero Factory, where I'm ashamed to say that I'm pretty sure I identified the voices of Henry Winkler (Fonzie) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) without IMDB. I'm guessing they used all the money that would have developed plot on the "star" voices. 

I never thought I'd say this, but Lego's Clutch Powers is soooo much better. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Geography Lessons

Today, I visited the No Child Left Behind store for teachers and parents on Springfield Avenue in Champaign (right next to Swann School). The owner is a very lovely woman who used to teach pre-k and kindergarten. I went in looking for some supplies for my summer with X-man.

I'm very excited. In approximately one month, X-man will say goodbye to Next Gen and will spend the summer with me. Since he and I haven't had three months together without some sort of childcare intervention since he was an infant, I thought I should prepare. I know he appreciates a schedule. I know I appreciate a schedule. But at the same time you don't want to take the impromptu fun that is summer break out of the weeks off before kindergarten starts.

He and I sat down and he told me some of the things he'd like to do this summer. Learning to swim was at the top of his list. He also said he needed to learn his phone number so he can call me in an emergency. He also asked to do two science experiments a week, preferably things he could eat OR things that would blow up.

So, I went to the store today and picked up some items supporting his choices as well as some items that I wanted to continue working on with him over the summer, so he doesn't forget his letter sounds or how to count to 100. I found a Melissa and Doug 51-piece puzzle of the United States. I brought it home and watched him put it together. Each of the states has a picture of something popular in that state. As he put them down, he'd ask me what state they were and who he might know in the state. We also talked about our travels and where we'd been.

And just so the people out there know, X-man has a list of places he plans on going:

1. To the Apple State to see Colby Jack.
2. To the Buffalo State to see DinoJonah.
3. To the Peanut State to see the Supers.
4. To the Space Shuttle State "Because space is cool."
5. To the Cactus State "Because I've never been to a desert."

It was a lot of fun to be on the floor and watch him use his brain and ask questions. And even cooler when he immediately took the finished puzzle apart and then put it back together and REMEMBERED each of the stories I told him about the states. So even if he forgets the name of the state, he remembers the picture on the puzzle piece, the story about it and where it goes on the map.

I know most of the synopses are supposed to be pruned by age 3. But I always love the spongie-ness of child-centered learning. If they're interested in what you're saying, they soak it up like crazy. If it's boring, their eyes glaze over and it's blah, blah, blah.

My guess is this is probably going to be how it is all the way through his school years. If he likes it, he'll become obsessed and focused on it to the grand scale, and if he rolls his eyes and tunes out -- we'll have lost him.

Challenging, who would have guessed? :-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Aisles and Aisle of Garbage

I've had plenty of "holy shit" moments in my lifetime.

Seeing the Grand Canyon.
Running my first 10-mile race. 
Realizing I was pregnant.
Realizing I got married.
Watching the president speak live 30 feet in front of me.
Watching the smoke start to rise above the Pentagon.
Euthanizing my first cat.
Putting on a pair of single digit-sized pants at age 33. 
Watching people spin out in snow and ice on Rt. 57. 
Winning scholarship or awards.
Being dragged behind a boat after falling through the middle of an innertube and not being able to breathe for what felt like a while, but was probably just a few seconds when I was 14...

And there are things I know, but try not to think about. Like I know I should have gotten a small, hybrid car instead of my RAV-4. In comparison to other mid-sized SUVs, it's not terrible in gas. But it was a comfort choice rather than a responsible choice. I know better, but I chose differently. I'm human, and I'm a little bit stupid and selfish. 

But today, I went grocery shopping at Meijer in Urbana. I had my list with me, and I went down the list. There were only seven items out of 50 that would take me into the middle of the store. All of the rest were either fruits, meats or dairy choices. However, I'd heard about the NuVal food scoring system last month and wanted to spend some time comparing products that I normally get in the processed aisles with others. NuVal are numbers stores like Meijer post in a hexagon on the labels on the shelves that tell you the price of foods. The numbers are 1-100 and they can tell you, if you follow the serving sizes, what brands of food actually are more nutritious than others. Like which popcorn is better for me really? The 100-calorie Orville Reddenbacher or the Pop Secret? Which is better the new Multigrain Cheerios or the Original? X-man asked for granola bars... which bars give him the most goodness for his growing body?

You want to know depressing? Depressing is when you realize that all the shit in those long, continuing aisles is garbage. Junk. It's created and put out there and sold in mass production to a giant society that gets absolutely no nutritional value from what they put in their mouths. It should all be thrown away. Our stores should be the size a small house, seriously. The rest of it can fold up and go away, except the Hodges Mill Whole Wheat Couscous. It was a freaking 91/100. When blueberries are 100, 91 of anything in a box is pretty spectacular. Go whole grains! 

Goldfish -- all 1's. Syrup of any kind was a 1 (except for the Smucker's low-calorie, no sugar. It was an 11). Pop Secret was a couple points higher in value than Orville. It was 23. Blue tortilla chips rank in the 40 range in the snack aisle. Terra Sweet Potato Chips were pretty high, too. But all the normal, inexpensive snack stuff -- single digits. Quaker rice cakes -- single digits. As for Granola bars, I chose the Cascadia Farm oatmeal and raisin. They were in the 40 range. I learned that if you add chocolate chips to anything, it lowers the NuVal number greatly. The same cascadia bars with chocolate chips were a 14... 

I came home with my groceries. (I was $13 overbudget because I bought the expensive nice-to-animals meat.) MacTroll helped me unpack. I told him about my experience. He looked at what I bought and he got depressed. He asked what the difference was between the sugar-free syrup we get and the Smucker's to make it a 10 point difference. Turns out it's just less calories (i.e. more fake sugar). "It probably tastes like crap," he said.

"Then maybe we don't need syrup at all," I said. In essence, X-man does like the flavored waffles... (Strawberry Lego waffles were in the mid-twenties.) 

"You know what I hate more than the NuVal numbers?" MacTroll asked. "The stupid calorie counts on menus. It takes all the fun out of eating out." 

In addition to MacTroll traveling to states that have enforced the new federal rules about calorie counts on chain restaurant menus, I also picked up a couple of the Eat This! Not that! books. Because if you're going to eat American Gap Crap, you might as well try to choose things that won't utterly kill you. Like my Double Oh Arctic Blast (medium size) shake from Cosi (that I ate with a salad once a week when we lived in D.C.) has 2010 calories. Doh! Or that you can order two things of fried fast food and a dessert from Dairy Queen and it's the same calorie count as ONE of their medium-sized chocolate shakes. Or that there are between 30-50 ingredients that make up one Baskin Robbin's milkshake.

It's all been scientifically engineered to taste good to our brains. To bring us back to buy more. It's capitalism, which I know everyone else points to as the acme of making our civilization work, but really, it's killing us in so many ways. When we see money instead of people, how can that be humane? Except for the fact that food industry employs sooooo many people. Do you see how this is a bit insane?

That being said. I like ice cream and Diet A&W root beer. I could sit down and eat an entire box of Oats and Chocolate Fiber One bars... What is a girl to do?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Getting Ready to be Employed

It's looking pretty good that next fall I'll be teaching five mornings a week at Mother's Morning Out in Champaign. I'm very excited about it. I've already started to eye things for my classroom based on the curriculum that they follow. It's hard because they have a new director starting next fall, so as she's learning the ropes (she's been a teacher at MMO the last few years) I'll be learning the ropes, too. The current director is going back into the classroom, which is also awesome. I've been a sub or a floater (teacher that moves classrooms each day) since Fall 2009 when they were at First Presbyterian.

I'm also a little nervous. I know most of the kids in the program because of my floating schedule. But at the same time I worry about not clicking with someone in the class. I also worry about not meeting all of the needs of the students in my care. I tend to be a more nurturing teacher in the classroom. I err on the side of being too communicative as I struggle with how to be a respectful, responsive teacher who has a reciprocal relationship with her students. I find it much more achievable with younger children. I have a special place in my heart for kids ages 15-30 months. I love to watch them develop and use their words and make discoveries. It's also before any of the other kid craziness sets in like cliques or fear of things that are different. So, creating a cohesive community in the classroom is paramount for me.

I hope I get to see some of you around the school next year. :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Love 'em and They Leave Ya Every Time

Grrrr. I went to Body Bar class at the Savoy Recreation Center today expecting to see one of my two favorite Park District Fitness instructors: Emily. I didn't get to go last week because of Jury Duty, and as it turns out... Emily accepted a job in Chicago and is moving ASAP. But she gets benefits with that job, so who could blame her?

I hate that. It's like when I was at the Fitness Center and the Magnificent Melissa took a job with Les Mills and stopped teaching Body Blast, which was my favorite class there.

Mmmm, maybe I need to stop getting attached to classes that start with double Bs?

Either way, the sub today was very nice, but holy smoke the class was overcrowded.

I saw a mess of people at the ARC this weekend when I was running, too. So many that they were walking to parking spaces over by Assembly Hall after their workouts because the lot next to the building was full.

And today Body Bar really needed to be moved to the gym. Since it didn't look like it was moving, I left and went to the weight room. I'm guessing people tried on their shorts this weekend and didn't like what they saw. Or they know that swim suit season is peeking around the corner...

I have yet to try on any of my summer clothes yet. So they're braver folks than I. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In the Groove

Last month, I put up this post about managing my health a bit better. I'd been resisting paying attention to what and how much I'd been eating because I guess I was feeling a large amount of self pity and jealousy. For the last month, I've been slowly putting everything back together again. I started cooking 4-5 nights a week. I banned any store-bought snack badness from our house. Any desserts that do come into the house, I make by scratch from Cooking Light or Clean Eating Magazines. And I managed to keep myself from gorging on them by either throwing them away OR by handing them out to others.

This week, I started cutting out all the calories that had randomly creeped into my diet. I cook without my overdose of binging in the name of "tasting." That means when I make a warm chocolate pudding for the boys from CL I didn't take a taste of it when it was made. I didn't steal one chocolate chip. I avoided the trigger without expelling the food from the house. It's not that I wasn't tempted. It's not like I didn't think, "I can have one. It won't hurt"a few million times. But the follow up sentence in my mind was, "Yes, it will. You know it will. Have a tangerine."

So I ate a tangerine. And honestly, the last set of clementines I got kind of sucked, but these are perfect. I've also stopped grabbing extra food off of X-man's plate. Funny how I fought to get rid of that habit only to have it creep back up on me again.

I also have gone one week with only having one diet soda. This is a giant thing. I've switched over to either doing a protein shake or smoothie, low-calorie Crystal Light or just ice water.

I've been reading books on vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. I'm researching. But I haven't made any decisions, yet. The near-vegan approach is looking quite appealing, however.

My next step is to get rid of eating out. I'd fallen off the wagon and was doing it 2-3 times a week because of the convenience and my exhaustion. I need to prepare for my situation better, so I've been working on it. And I'm kind of proud of myself. X-man asked to eat at El Toro for lunch today. I sent the boys by themselves and stayed home.

I had been falling back into the gap of American food culture. Now I'm kind of climbing my way out of the hole again. The goal is to avoid the gap in the future by making choices that are best for my body and brain. I started to think that it wasn't fair that I couldn't eat what other people ate. I rebelled in giant ways. Now, after five days of monitoring and recording after weeks of preparing and making small changes, I feel like I'm back in charge of my body. This is a really nice feeling, but talk to me at the end of May and we'll see how I'm doing.

Of course, last night my husband took to watching Julia Child in bed on the iPad and is drooling at her recipes with 2 cups of sugar and heavy cream... :-) But I don't feel deprived, and he got double chocolate pudding for dessert last night, so he probably shouldn't feel deprived either.

As for tonight, I'm trying a veggie and chickpea curry in the slow cooker. We're headed out to the Rotary Family Day at the Savoy Recreation Center at 2 p.m. So, it'll be nice to have dinner pretty much ready to go when we get home around 4 p.m. (I just have to make the boys some rice.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Runnin' Down a Dream

I haven't written about running in a long, long time. I'm still keeping at it. In fact, I'm participating in my first half marathon on April 30th. I'm hoping it's the first of many (Particularly since I registered for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in October.)

I've gotten into a comfortable 3 runs a week rotation. During the weekend is my long run where I run the first mile and then I walk .2 miles and then I run .8 miles (wash, rinse, repeat) until I reach my goal for the day. It's kind of my own version of Jeff Galloway's walk/run system designed to keep me from injury.

Today's run was 11 miles. I have one more long run next weekend and then I taper until the race. On Tuesdays, I do a 60-minute fitness run with little to no walking, if possible, and on Thursday I do a 1.5-mile jog and then do 50-100 meter intervals for 1 mile, attend a yoga-lates class and then jog .75 miles home. 

In between, I do some in-the-gym biking and now that I've passed the two-week post surgery mark for my Lasek, I can get back in the pool. It all seems to be working to avoid reinjuring my back. I've also noticed since I moved from the indoor track to outside I've gotten slower (Thank you to Mother Nature and her natural resistance through 25-40 mph spring wind gusts), but I don't have any runner's knee symptoms, either. 

I love the feeling I get when I'm done with my workout for the day. But I do wish every long run wasn't met with me thinking of all the things I could be accomplishing at home. The first 4 miles is always full of the desire to go back home and start gardening or laundry or something stupid like that. It's funny, because post-run moments like now, all I want to do is shower, eat lunch and take my family to Brain Awareness Day at the Children's Museum. I could give a crap about my garden or turning mulch. Although I did come home to a sparkling front porch, since MacTroll took X-man outside to do his favorite thing -- play with our garden hose and soap. When it's dry, my rocking adirondack chairs will be outside, and I can hang out and read out there.

Oh, and a note for fitness guru Matt Fitzgerald. I finished your Racing Weight book during jury duty this week. In it you mention that if some random CEO can find time to run a company and train to be an endurance athlete anyone can. At that moment I wanted to shake you, Matt. Find me a single parent with  kids who need constant care or pick up and drop off at their fitness events, without the economic resources to hire cleaning people and yard people and other people to care for their homes (i.e. they make less than $40k a year), and/or are expected to put in 8+ hours, as needed, per day at their job (or maybe two jobs to make ends meet or have a 2-hour commute) without any financial extras or incentives and we'll talk about people who are role models for endurance athlete training. 

Either way, I'm meeting my long-term goals as a runner to 1) Survive the run 2) Not get injured (or injure anyone else) 3) To not vomit. Every run where I meet those goals, I pat myself on the back. It's a good run. How's that for motivation?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out of the Mouth of My Babe

I've covered a brash of crazy adult topics this week. Today's entry is also a little adult, but it's one of those parenting moments that makes a mommy like me blush.

The weather is getting nicer, so X-man and I were driving home yesterday with the windows open. X-man hates waiting on red lights when he wants to get somewhere. So when he was two, we started doing the Corrina, Corrina  method of trying to blow at the lights until they change from red to green (4:42 moment of the clip).

He started huffing and puffing, but I waited until I could see the opposite light change to yellow and then I exhaled. The light changed immediately -- shocker. :-)

And then my son, very loudly, said, "Mom, you're the best blower in the whole world! You deserve a prize."

And the guy, sitting in a convertible next to us, just starts laughing profusely.

And here I am, blushing like mad, again!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My New Favorite Place

I suppose in the world of blogs there are people who reveal too much and those that reveal too little. Maybe some writers go insane by bouncing in between. For those of you who get freaked out about personal information, this entry isn't for you. Feel free to skip today and come back tomorrow.

For everyone else, I want to tell you about my first trip to Planned Parenthood in 14 years. 

Today's visit was uplifting, and it made me think that the world of health care isn't turned upside down everywhere. 

I arrived for my appointment at the Champaign office of Planned Parenthood of Illinois at 1:35 p.m. I handed over my ID and insurance card for my 1:45 p.m. appointment. As a new patient, I had to fill out a plethora of paperwork. Some of it was the usual insurance items and emergency contact numbers. I also filled out some health history and read over the information on the Mirena IUD that the clinician was going to insert that day.

If you're new to my blog, I've been living with (suffering through) low iron since last August. Even on supplements, my blood work has gotten worse. Now I have low ferritin, low protein and low platelets. In January, I had an ultrasound. It took 60 days for my ob/gyn to have an open appointment time to tell me what was in the ultrasound (a benign tumor called a fibroid) and to give me advice on how best to proceed. Then it was going to take another 30 days to get another appointment to actually proceed. And two days before that appointment, my doctor had to cancel for another more emergent case. I asked the nurse for anyone else in the office that could do it, but she never called back. So, I went around big brother Carle and called up Planned Parenthood. They got me in 7 days later. And if you know me, efficiency wins every time. The IUD is supposed to lessen the blood flow of my periods, so that I (keep your fingers crossed) am able to retain iron stores. 

After I finished my paperwork and turned it into the medical assistant at the Planned Parenthood desk, I looked up and saw this poster. 

Underneath the Food, Sleep, Sex, it talks about how those are the three basic biological instincts of a human. Then it says, "If your sex life is good, Planned Parenthood is here to help you celebrate it. If your sex life could be better, Planned Parenthood is here to help you improve it."

I fell in love at that moment, and wanted the poster on a t-shirt so I could wear it everywhere. 

When they called my name about 30 minutes later as I was flipping through a Pregnancy magazine. (There were a lot of different types of parent-focused magazines and, of course, Oprah). My name was called by a smiling, welcoming employee. She weighed me (the sweet woman was nice to start the weighing at 100 lbs. I laughed and told her to bump it up a notch). Then she had me give her a urine sample. Afterwards she went over some medical information and then explained that a clinician would come in to do the insertion. 

While I waited another 10 minutes in my lovely paper drape. I checked out the small exam room. In it was a sign that listed the patient's rights and responsibilities. The second line was a welcoming statement that said: "Welcome to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Regardless of race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or economic standing..." All inclusive and efficient. This keeps getting better. Don't have any money -- no problem. 

Now, I know that most people hear Planned Parenthood and immediately draw a line from it to abortion. Abortion is a topic that gets everyone hot and bothered. So bothered, that it appears our country may well be headed to a government shutdown because of it. People paint PP as a place that encourages abortion. But I took a photo of the most prominent poster in the room.

And I don't get how anyone can get angry about a place that teaches those ABC values. The other largest informational piece in the room (I forgot to take a photo of it) were pamphlets about adoption tucked away near the "desk area." PP is a full service sexual health organization. Do they provide abortions? Yes, they do, but that is not at all the primary use of that organization. While I was there, several women came in to obtain birth control. One guy was there for testing. We all had different services and contraceptives to choose from. And although I'm not using my IUD as a way to prevent pregnancy (MacTroll took care of that six months after X-man was born). It was nice to have a choice. I'm also sure no one in that building as making more than $30,000. They were there to take care of patients in need. There's something heroic about that. 

When the clinician came in, she smiled just as warmly as the woman who weighed me. She asked me to tell her what I knew about the Mirena, so I went over what I'd read on the paper they gave me, as well as the take care after insertion instructions and what my friends had told me about their experiences. She seemed pleased with the amount of information I'd retained and then she filled in any holes and answered my questions. The IUD is a plastic T-shape device. Mirena has a small amount of progesterone that is released in adequate amounts over the next 5 years. That's a long time. The hormone is what should help my monthly periods lessen or possibly even stop all together. And for anyone wondering, you can have the device removed and have no problem getting pregnant within 12 months of its removal (I don't have the desire to birth another child, but in case someone else did... I thought you should know.)

Then we went through the insertion. I'm not going to lie to you. It was somewhat uncomfortable, but anything that involves a clamp and a cervix can't be all that much of a party, right? If you thought a speculum was bad though, it pales to the clamp. Fifteen minutes later, it was in. She gave me some time to make sure I wasn't lightheaded and then left the room while I got dressed. That's when I noticed the calendar on the wall from some agricultural group that deals in sheep reproduction. It gives the "Next Heat date" and a "Due date" for the flock to make it easier on farmers. I thought that was quite funny for a Planned Parenthood.

When the clinician came back we went over the discharge instructions again, and then she walked me out where I paid a $20 co-pay for the device. Then I left. I got in my RAV-4 and I noticed a mother and a young woman standing on the sidewalk by the parking lot. I thought, "Isn't that nice? A family just hanging out in front of a family planning facility." Another patient was coming out of the clinic and getting on her bike to ride away. I was driving slowly behind her. As we passed the family, I noticed the two women suddenly had rosary in hand and were reading from a small bible. 

And I thought to myself: "Awwww, isn't that nice? They're blessing my new IUD." ;-)

I have to tell you, if Planned Parenthood offered full service GP needs and radiology... I'd go there for every medical need I had in an instant. Plus, their facility is about to get a much needed physical rehab. So when I go back in six weeks for my recheck, they should be working on the parking lot entry way, and the clinic is supposedly moving up to the second floor. 

Anyway, it was the most positive medical experience outside of weight management that I'd had in a long while. So, I thought I'd talk it up. :-) 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jury Duty -- Hang Me Now

This is my first time summoned to jury duty. I have to admit, I was half excited and half put out. In Champaign County they send you a survey that asks you what month you'd like to serve. I chose December. They sent me a summons for the fourth week in March. I called to tell them that wouldn't due because I was going in for eye surgery on March 24th. So they sent me another summons for this week.

You'll notice neither of them was in December.


Anyway, as a former journalism professor and reporter, I was kind of excited about the idea of serving... until I found out my husband was going to be gone for work two weeks in a row. And that meant I was going to have to recruit Quigs to be my emergency pick up person for X-man if I got put on a trial that runs late. No worries, you just run out in the hall or give your phone to the court authority to call or text her. Except phones aren't allowed in the courthouse at all. Sooo, I had to write down all the phone numbers I might need if I got put on a case that went past 5 p.m. (not that anyone wants to work that late at the courthouse).

It also meant that X-man was going to get up early, and he, like his father, does not like to be woken up. He likes to wake up on his own around 7:30. But that really wasn't going to work on Tuesday when I needed to get him up, get him dressed, take him to vote with me (I won a seat on the library board by the way--go uncontested election!) and then drop him at school before I went to court. I had to be there by 8:15 to ensure that I could get into the jury room by 8:30. So I got up at 5:45 a.m. to shower. X-man got up at 6:30 a.m. He's been a grump all week.

The first day we watched a video and sat around for 90 minutes. I read my book. We all got called back for the afternoon session at 12:30. Then we got divided into two groups and the extras got let go. Then I sat around until the officer came to take us to a court room. Jury room seats are very uncomfortable for hours at a time. But it's not nearly as uncomfortable as the wooden benches in the courtroom. My piriformis was very, very unhappy. I sat on a wooden bench for several hours watching random jurors get called up for a jury. They never called my number, so I got dismissed after they swore everyone in around 4 p.m. But I couldn't read when I was in there...

On Tuesday, I got called back again with half of the jury pool. This time I sat in the jury room from 8:30 until just about 11 a.m. I noticed the three people who I knew the day before weren't there. So I guessed they must have gotten put on a jury for that morning. I finished book 1. Then she came down and said we were dismissed, so I'm guessing the case got settled or dismissed. This morning it was exactly the same thing, but they had summoned all of us in and we sat around for two hours until they excused about 2/3 of us.

There is totally nothing sexy about this process. I wasn't expecting Ally McBeal or Boston Legal or anything. But seriously, this is insane. They built this new courthouse expansion a few years ago, they couldn't have put in a few comfy chairs for jurors to sit in to avoid sciatica outbreaks and drink coffee to stay awake while they waited for hours? Maybe offer up some power outlets and wifi for our laptops (which are allowed even though phones aren't). You could tell today that people were getting tired because they actually started talking. Well, correction, one juror started talking and then he traveled around the room getting to know everyone else. Extroverted individual clearly going through withdrawal. Me, I started reading book 2.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to have my doctor's appointment for my IUD. I know because I have crap luck that I'm going to end up calling Planned Parenthood during the lunch break to reschedule the appointment. But since we've been released 2/3 days and had the afternoon free, I'm going to wait it out and see how it goes.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to feel more "Power to the People" on Thursday or Friday. Because the participating electorate on Tuesday was depressing. People clearly can't be bothered any more. They think they have more important things to do, and maybe they do if they're rescuing people from fire or saving babies. But I'm feeling pretty Joe Schmo hanging in the jury box, and although it's uncomfortable, it's okay by me.