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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And now, a break from our regularly scheduled programming...

I apologize if you're here to read about running.  Or biking.  Go back a page or two.  I'll bore you with all the paces and distances and athletic mediocrity you can bear.  Today I have some ranting to do, and since I can't get it out of my system with a bike ride I'll have to spill it here.

My friend sent a kid to lunch detention today because the girl had twenty missing assignments.  Twenty.  In twenty-eight days of school.  There have been numerous conversations regarding this with the child and the child's parent, to no avail.  Of course, whenever a child has a detention, a note goes home to inform the parent, so this parent called school this afternoon, indignant because she had told the teacher that it's her (the mother's) fault the child isn't getting her homework done because she (again, the mom) has two other kids and doesn't always (umm...ever) remember to check for homework.  "So my child is suffering because I forgot?"

First of all, we seem to have very loose criteria for "suffering" these days.  Me, when I think of suffering I think of starving children, girls who aren't allowed to receive an education, ravages of war, child labor.  Eating your lunch away from your friends and missing recess are not "suffering", but if you're really concerned about it, here are a few things I think would be more painful than lunch detention:
  • being in 8th grade and still reading on a 2nd grade level
  • trying to get a job without a high school diploma
  • trying to raise a family on a minimum wage income
  • growing up with no sense of personal responsibility because your mom has spent your whole life explaining that it's "her" fault you didn't do what you were supposed to do.  Tell that to the judge and see how far it gets you.
I have three kids.  I work full-time.  I spend two nights a week in St. Louis getting my son to volleyball practice.  I'm active in my church.  I get "busy".  And I'm soooo far from the perfect mom.  In fact, my kids are well aware that, if they don't pester me to sign something, it may not get done.  A first grader is plenty old enough to bring her backpack to her mom and say, "I have homework.  I need you to help me.  I need you to sign this."

And if she's not...

...if you spend her education making excuses for her rather than helping her become more responsible...

...if you believe that "I'm too busy to parent my child" is an acceptable explanation...

...if you think you're doing your kid a favor by trying to get her out of consequences rather than trying to keep her out of trouble...

...if you want someone to blame for your child's suffering...


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stuffed shirt

Here's a partial list of things I've carried in my sports bra while running*
  • iPod/phone
  • granola bar
  • blister pack of medicine
  • money
  • empty cup (OK, that was actually while biking, and only til I found a trash can) 
  • i.d.
  • car key
So...at one point on yesterday's run, I couldn't find my car key.  Yes, I lost it in my top.  I started to freak out a little because a) it's the only one; and b) it could've been anywhere along the 5.5 mile path.  I tried to subtly feel around for it as I ran, but finally I had to stop and fish around in my top until I found it.  Classy, very classy.

Clearly, my bare bones running gear isn't cutting it anymore.  Besides the lost and found key, I also worry that I'm going to drown my phone in sweat.  I normally wear the tops with a built in shelf bra and tuck the phone between the top and my actual sports bra to limit its contact with moisture, but my clothes are all soaked by the time I'm finished, so I'm not sure how much protection that is.

My question for you is what do you use? Running belt?  Armband (can't put my phone in that bc the screen is cracked and the armband now does all kinds of crazy things to the volume)? Shorts with pocket?  Something else? I could use some recommendations.  Money is limited, and now that I'm going to have to buy a mountain bike so I can do this next year, I want to make the best choice for the money...and avoid any more bra fishing expeditions on the trail.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Our morning started with a moderately early soccer game--9:15.  I had a ten mile run scheduled, and last time I tried to fit in a run before soccer, I ended up missing the little bit of the game we had time for.  The weather has been cooler, so I had hopes that I could just run a bit later and be OK.  The game was as cute as first grade soccer was, and I finally got to see J. play in the goal.  There were a couple of good saves on his turn, but both were by a goal post.  He did play aggressively during the rest of the game, though, and we had plenty to cheer about.

As soon as the game was over, N. and I headed to St. Louis for N's club volleyball tryouts.  Leaving at 10 for 11:30 tryouts, we should have had plenty of time. Except there was construction on the interstate leading into St. Louis.  Thank goodness we'd left as early as we had, because instead of 25 minutes early, we were there about 5 minutes before the start. 

I dropped him off and headed to Grant's Trail for my run.  I was a little worried about how I'd do because I hadn't really eaten much.  I'd had two slices of banana bread in the morning.  Luckily I'd picked up a banana with my morning soda, so I ate that as well as the Luna bar I'd brought along just in case.  I had actually considered grabbing a big pretzel and nacho cheese at the site of the tryouts, but remembering the taco-fueled misery on Wednesday, I decided against that plan!

The temperature was in the low 70's by then...a bit warmer than I'd hoped, but still nice in the shady spots and OK in the sunny ones.  Certainly it was MUCH better than the 90's I had to run in this summer!  This was supposed to be an easy run, and I was consciously trying to take it easy.  I don't have a heart rate monitor, but any time I felt like I was really exerting myself, I dialed it back a little.  I really wanted to have a successful run to build my confidence leading into the half marathon after last Saturday's disappointment and Wednesday night's struggles.

The first half was pretty good.  Ten was on the schedule, but I kind of had eleven in the back of my head in case things were going well.  Right at the 5 mile mark, I made it to Grant's Farm. 

I ran to Grant's Farm! :)

The Grant's Farm area includes the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, the entrance of which is above, and Grant's Farm, the Anheuser-Busch former family home and current animal attraction.  I've been there many times over the course of my life, but I've never RUN there, so that was kind of cool.  I knew that Grant's Trail passed Grant's Farm, but I didn't really realize it was so close.  Admission to the park is free, but parking isn't.  If we could transport all of our bikes with all of us in the car, riding the trail to the Farm would definitely be the way to go! 

Since the 5 mile mark was at the historic site and the farm property was a bit further, that convinced me to go the extra distance.  Naturally, the last half mile out was uphill, but after I tagged the 5.5 mile marker, I stopped to take a picture of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in one of the pastures (well, their children, anyway).

Clydesdales at Grant's Farm
Yeah, I know...iPhone zoom isn't too impressive.  But somehow my trail pictures didn't take, so I don't have much to break up my blah blah blah.  Maybe next run I'll STOP to take the pictures.  (Probably not)

I felt pretty good on the way back, too.  Each 1/2 mile marker cheered me as I got closer to the end.  My knee was doing OK--a couple of twinges here or there, but nothing that really concerned me.  The last few miles the toes on my right foot were bothering me.  It always kicks in about 8 miles in or so.  I felt OK running...not out of breath or legs hurting or anything.  Mostly, by mile 9 or so, I was just plain tired of running.

When I got to the last half mile, I did a few strides.  Well, maybe sort of.  I'd read something about strides either online or in a magazine, and what I remembered from what I'd read was slight downhill (no such luck), fast foot turnover, 30 steps of your lead food.  I know there was more to it, but I don't really remember what that was, so my "strides" consisted of three intervals where I focused on fast foot turnover for 30 steps followed by an easy jog until I felt like I could do it again. 

My end time was 1:48:22, a 9:51 pace.  Like I said before, I really tried to focus on taking it easy, but it still makes me a little stressed to see that time because it's definitely too slow to manage a sub-2:00 half marathon, which is my pie in the sky goal (as opposed to my actual goal of just finishing the thing).  I'm not sure if the difference was the lack of company or the trail (asphalt rather than...whatever that trail was) or the temperature (at least 10 degrees warmer here), but this run wasn't anywhere near as fun and easy feeling as my first ten mile run.  It would be hard to measure up with that one...it stands out as my best run ever.  :) Even so, I'm happy to have eleven miles under my belt, and I'm really pleased that I'm not limping this evening or really, even sore.

Oh, and my son's tryouts?  He made the top team in his age group (17 and under)! :)  So we celebrated with Dairy Queen blizzards. 

After-run treat

And I earned every bite.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rough run

The training plan called for a 7-mile tempo run on Wednesday, and though I was still dragging from Sunday's Survivor festivities, I faithfully slept in my running clothes and set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. I even woke up when it went off. When I went into the bathroom to put in my contacts, though, I started hearing thunder and seeing flashes of lightning. Running in the rain is one thing; a thunderstorm is quite another, so I headed back to bed. I was disappointed but not heartbroken to get an extra hour and a half of sleep.

Wednesday was busy, busy, culminating in 5:00 dinner (tacos...mmm), 5:45 soccer practice, 6:30 PSR for J, and 7:00 church service (1/2 hr away) with N. By the time we got home and sat down to watch Survivor, it was 9. Still, I was committed to fitting in my run. When we went upstairs at 10, though, we were greeted by a steaming mess courtesy of our dog, who had dragged a pork bone out of the trash Tuesday night. So I had another half hour of scrubbing carpets before I could get outside.

Due to a disconcerting incident earlier in the day, I was nervous running alone so late, so I took my dog along. Mile 1 was pretty typical...and by typical, I mean rough. If i stopped running when i was tired, I'd never get past the end of my block. I just tried to enjoy the bright, beautiful harvest moon and hang on until it got easier. First mile (warmup) took 9:59.

Unfortunately, mile two didn't feel any better. I pretty much felt like I was dying the whole time. My legs were heavy, and I was already pretty close to a shuffle. When I hit the end of that mile, though, I felt better about how I was struggling. My time was (a fast for me) 8:46. That gave me a burst of positive mental, if not physical) energy.

Mile three began the stomach problems. Those tacos tasted great, but they didn't do me any favors during my run. My chest and lungs were burning, I was burping up taco seasoning, and I started thinking I should've spent more time in the bathroom before the run. I pressed on, though, and finished the mile in 8:59.9.

Running back was no more fun, but I consoled myself that I only had one more 2-mile lap (plus cool down mile) after this. I wasn't setting the world on fire, but managed that mile in 9:28.

The last 2-mile lap was just brutal. I should've stopped to go to the bathroom but didn't. I was breathing like the murder victim in a horror movie, and I felt like I was running like Phoebe, only sluggish. At one point, I was so grateful that it was dark and no one could see the graceless, lurching stagger that passed for a run!

The last two miles were 10:21 and 10:29. When I got to the house, I'd have run inside if I had the energy. I had told myself that if I gutted out the last two I could skip the cool down...and let's face it, those last two miles were slow enough to serve as a cool down!

So...a bad run. I felt terrible pretty much the whole time. It reminded me of my early c25k days, when I wanted to die in the middle of a 60-second run interval. A big part of me was thinking "What the hell are you thinking that you're going to do a half marathon in another week?"

Except. This run from hell was nearly an hour. Not 60 seconds.

Except. Even with my stomach in open rebellion and my legs feeling like dead weight, I beat my last 10k time by 2 min.

Except. Awful as I felt, I gutted out 6 miles.

Except, I felt like I was walking, and my lowest pace was 10:29.

It wasn't the confidence-building run I was hoping for, but even in failure it's clear: I've come a long way, baby!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You're talking gibberish

I think I've mentioned before and before that we're trying to transition a little boy from one of our other (somewhat more restrictive*) special ed classrooms into mine. We're up to 45 minutes a day; keeping his attention is a real struggle, getting him to do any written work is a huge accompishment, and his behavior in general is a challenge, to say the least. He has a difficult time expressing himself verbally (though he certainly can make his feelings of displeasure evident!), but he gave us an interesting window into his head today.

Note: This story was related to me by his teacher, and I know I have it half wrong--especially the dialogue, but the gist of it is what she told me.

Note 2: If you click on the link, you can hear a clip of the song. You should. It's a fun song, plus it adds a little to the story, but if you don't, here are the lyrics that are pertinent to this story:

Driving in my car/driving in my car/driving all the way to Minneapolis in my

We were having our music time this morning and listening to the song we always listen to. We listened to it last year (when he was also in her classroom), too: Driving in My Car (by former Bad Examples leader Ralph Covert...Ralph's World...great CD for kids).

Student interrupts: "My mom doesn't have any of those apaliz."

Teacher: "Any what?"

Student: "She doesn't have any apaliz in her car."

Teacher: "Apples? Any what?"

Student: "NO...apaliz. My mom doesn't have any."

Teacher (lost): "Ummm...OK."

Student (shrugs): "Well, she doesn't have many apaliz, anyway."

Light Bulb

Light bulb moment: Many apaliz = Minneapolis

It's funny, but it also strikes me--this kid has been listening to this song for a year now, and he doesn't know anything about "apaliz" other than he doesn't have any. How many times are we talking in class and losing the kids because they have no idea what we're talking about? How many times are their "attention problems", in reality, due to the fact that what we're saying is lost in translation? We might as well be talking gibberish.
*FYI, "more restrictive" in this sense refers to amount of time out of the regular education environment, not any kind of bodily restriction. A classroom where the students receive all of their instruction from a special ed teacher in a special ed classroom is "more restrictive" than a classroom like mine, where the students receive their core academics (Language Arts and Math) from me but have their Science and Social Studies instruction provided by their regular education teachers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why my husband is cooler than yours

Today was my husband's birthday. He turned 45 today. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Survivor 2010

More importantly (to him), today was the 6th (? maybe more) annual Survivor Jr. games, a day of Survivor-style (and, this year, Minute to Win It-esque) competitions for the kids in our family. He puts a lot of research and planning into this day, and it shows. The kids have a blast. They talk about it throughout the year. My 12-year old niece was so excited about it that she planned to go to bed early last night (didn't actually DO so, but planned to).

Survivor 2010
It's not easy keeping this nutty crew moving in the same direction, but somehow he manages.

Now, in Survivor the contestants get voted off, and we tried this in the beginning, but since the goal of the day is for the kids to have a fun, active day the whole voting off thing kind of works at crosspurposes. Plus there are all kinds of hurt feelings and complaining. Bleh. So instead, our Survivor works on a point system. All of the contestants are paired up with someone of approximate size/skill, and then those pairs are always separate. Teams are randomly chosen for each event, and each person on the winning team for an event gets a point. The kid with the most points "wins", but it's really just bragging rights.

Survivor 2010
Back row: nephew J, me, son N. Front row: Nephew A, niece T, son J.

Survivor 2010
Back row: niece MJ, son D, D's girlfriend A, nephew R, niece ML. Front: nephew N.

Since we're trying to get three families and about 10 kids together for the day, scheduling is always a nightmare. We'd like to have it earlier in the summer, but somehow it never works out that way. So of course, after all the planning and anticipation for the event, it was raining when we woke up. And had been raining all night. My father-in-law's volleyball court and yard were a soggy mess.

Survivor 2010
Who needs toys? Or playgrounds? Or sun?

Luckily (I guess), we've encountered this kind of thing before. And before. And what we've found is that, as long as the weather isn't dangerous, it's not going to kill anyone to get wet (at least, not immediately), and sometimes it's even more fun in the rain. Rather than get upset, we just thought about how we could set up to account for the rain...and then the fun was on!

We have some great video, which is going to have to wait, but here are the events of the day:

1. You've lost your marbles

Teams take turns throwing footballs onto a giant "marble" board to knock the marbles out of the circle.

Survivor 2010

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2. Tic-tac-toe

Like the game, but you have to bounce a ping pong ball into a cup of water. Harder than you'd think. Maybe I should have played more beer pong in college. Or any.

Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010

3. Cup Stacking

Teams get 5 minutes to stack the cups as high as they can without them falling. Don't ask why we have so many QT cups, but at least we're practicing the "reuse" portion of the three R's.

Survivor 2010
Their cup stack kept falling over.

Survivor 2010
But so did ours.

Survivor 2010
But not as much as theirs, so we won. :)

4. In the Bag

Teams have to collect a series of paper bags, picking them up and carrying them back to the start without their hands. The bags ranged from 17" tall to 7" tall.

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Survivor 2010

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5. Balloon Pop

The team with the last person whose balloon remains unpopped wins.

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Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010

6. Face the Cookie

Move a cookie from your forehead to your mouth using only your face. Hilarious.

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The thrill of victory...

Survivor 2010 Survivor 2010
Survivor 2010 Survivor 2010
...and the agony of defeat. Oh, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. :)

7. Shake It

Team members take turns trying to shake 5 ping pong balls from a kleenex box tied to their waist. First team with all members finished wins.

Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010

8. Lid toss

30 seconds to toss as many lids into a bucket in the middle of the circle as possible.

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Survivor 2010

9. Blindfold bottle hunt

Callers direct their blindfolded teammates to find the right color of bottles and return them all to the start.

Survivor 2010

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10. Elephant March

Knock over a series of cups using only your "trunk" (baseball inside of pantyhose)

Survivor 2010
Longest. Pantyhose. Ever.

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My "helpers" put the empty leg over my head, which made it nearly impossible to swing the trunk.

11. Dress-up Relay

My one contribution to the event ideas, the dress-up relay requires each successive runner to put on an additional item of clothing.

Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010
Those red hat ladies are waaaay too tame for me.

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He looks like a deranged superhero.

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Oven mitts, wig, tie, glasses. Sweet.

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I get by with a little help from my...teammates.
Lifting up T to pull the pants onto her.

12. Pedometer shuffle

A pedometer is worn on one arm and one leg. Pairs face off to see how many steps they can register on the pedometer in 20 seconds. Turns out, quite a few.

Survivor 2010

Survivor 2010
And that 20 seconds will WEAR YOU OUT.

By the end of the day, we were ALL worn out. Everyone had a great time, and I loved getting to "play" this year. (It's more or less pretty much for the kids, but we needed someone to even out the teams since D's girlfriend joined us. They didn't have to twist my arm much. Or at all. :D)

Survivor 2010

One more successful Survivor, family style, is in the bag...and he'll probably start planning for next year's tomorrow.