Thursday, December 12, 2013

These are a few of my favorite (holiday) things...

As measurable snow has fallen and the air is definitely cold, this is my follow up post to the ways the holidays kill my holiday spirit. Thank you for letting me vent about the holiday craziness. However, I remind myself that holiday is a compound word - holy day - and to treat it that way.

Here are some of the things I love about the holidays...
  • Our family traditions - Every year we read The Advent Book taking turns opening a door everyday until Christmas. The book tells the Christmas story and on Dec 25 behind the big red door is baby Jesus. By Christmas my girlios have their pages memorized. We also read The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a great book for any age. Our Christmas morning tradition includes not any opening gifts until breakfast is eaten and all cleaned up. Apparently, the girlios have noted, Christmas breakfast includes bacon.
  • The opportunity to bless others - I know the holiday season has begun when Operation Christmas Child boxes come out. My girlios love shopping, packing and giving to children around the world. There are so many opportunities to give during the season - meals, adopting a family, shoveling, etc. We try to be cheerful givers. It really is better to give than to receive.
  • Pretending that I do crafts - My craft graveyard suggest that I have good intentions but little productivity. However, I like to believe that I am crafty. And since I have 'free' time in the holidays, I like to make and create things. Sewing, scrap booking, knitting, crocheting. Small projects normally get done. Long term projects drop by the wayside (and into the graveyard) when the holidays are over.
  • Reading books - Since I have been involved in academia since the dawn of time, I don't get a lot of time to read for pleasure. I read some great books to the girlios during the school year but the holidays offer me the chance to read books of my choosing. I love getting lost in a book. I like, as Bobbi puts it, a book hangover. Losing track of time, staying up way too late, getting lost in a book, laughing or crying, and speaking in the same dialect for the rest of the day are things I love about reading. Fiction, nonfiction. Classic, fluff. History of civilization, history of math, history of dumplings. Sweet holiday reading.
  • Warm beverages, fleece and blankets - One word: coziness. I love snuggling in blankets with a warm cup in hand. Sometimes it is with a book. Sometimes it is just sitting. Normally, there is a dog at my side and one at my feet. We can fit a surprising number of people on the couch.
  • Playing in the snow - There is sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels. We love it as a family. If the snow is falling it is usually between 20-30 degrees, and we can tolerate it. Of course, there is cocoa afterwards. I love winter running too.
  • Using the oven - In the summer turning on the oven is oppressive. During the holidays my baking switch turns on. Turning on the oven sends heat and smells around the house. Since I have a little more time, I can experiment with recipes, stock up the freezer and make old favorites. It satisfies my creative desires too.
  • Hanging out with my family - The holidays are a special time for my family to be together. We could be playing a game together, cooking together, or reading books/playing in different parts of the house. There is just a peace when we are all together. Yes, we still have to referee girlio scuffles, but even the dogs know when the pack is all together. A special bonus is seeing  member of the extended family - G'ma, G'pa, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It's nice to catch up and spend time together.
I wish you Happy Holy Days. Set them apart and fill them with peace, love and joy. Blessings!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

This recipe is a staple in our family. It's easy and terribly good. The original recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. My adaptations are slight. Unlike most zucchini bread recipes, the original recipe has only a quarter cup of oil. I reduce the oil farther, and it is still moist. When the garden produces more zucchini than we can eat, I shred and freeze it for cold days like today when I don't mind the oven being on. It can be made vegan with an egg replacer. Since the first loaf is gone within half an hour of taking it out of the oven I normally make three loaves at a time.

So yummy! You are welcome.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar*
1 cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
2 tbsp cooking oil*
2 tbsp apple sauce
1 egg
1/4 tsp finely shredded lemon peel**
1/2 cup semisweet morsels

*The original recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of oil.
** I use dried lemon peel

1. In a mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.
2. In another mixing bowl combine sugar, shredded zucchini, cooking oil, egg and lemon peel and mix well.

3. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Pour batter into a greased 8x4x2 inch loaf pan.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (When making 3 loaves, I rotate the loaves every 18 minutes)

7. Cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from pan and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Or eat it all before completely cooled. The loaves can be frozen. I usually wrap them in cling wrap and then in aluminum foil.


A weary mom's pep talk

Today I have been in a funk. I must have woken up under a dark cloud. I'm tired. Just tired. Tired of washing the same dishes, washing the same clothes, and cooking in general. I didn't want to be responsible. Being a mom and working seemed too much. The day felt long from the moment it started, and I was struggling.

So today I thought about the encouragement I wanted to hear. Here are a few things I heard.

  • It's okay to let the dishes wait. They'll be there when you are ready.
  • You don't have to make a gourmet meal. Simple still fills stomachs.
  • Take time for yourself. Don't feel guilty about a moment of sanity.
  • It's okay to close and even lock the bathroom door.
  • You don't have to do all the laundry today. Try for one load.
  • Your kids are only this age for a moment. Spontaneously hug them even though they are driving you crazy.
  • It's okay to sit down.
  • Change it up a bit. Change it up a lot if need be.
  • Turn up the music if you like this song. Dance maybe. 
  • It's okay to be good enough today.
  • Today is not a reflection of tomorrow.
  • Today may bend you, but it won't break you.
My day wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. Partly cloudy when the forecast looked like rain. If you're a tired mom like me, I hope you find this encouraging. There are many many days we need it. There is hope on the drudgery days.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Insanity Log: Day 2

Life is insane in the holidays so why not do the Insanity workout at the same time. I may not write about all the days, but I am writing to keep myself accountable to do all 60 days of the workout. I'd love encouragement. Feel free to ignore the posts too. Or enjoy my quips and whines while drinking coffee on the couch. I will sweat for you. If I break or tear something, I'm out.

I work part time, and I work a couple of jobs. As my days in December seem to be playing out, I am working every day except two in the next 19. Poor planning and insanity. I need an outlet, endorphins and a routine.

I picked up the Insanity workout from my local online garage sale. We have p90x, and I like it in the winter months, but the workouts can be long. Insanity workouts are shorter (and harder). So here is how it is going so far...

Day 1: Fit test. A bunch of different exercises for a minute. DVD is 25 minutes long. Conclusion: I am not Insanity fit. Is it bad to be sore from the fitness test? This is going to be a long 60 days.

Day 2: Was sore getting out of bed from fitness test. First workout is 40 minutes long. Went to the bathroom twice during the workout and drank half a gallon of water. Sweat like a boss. Jumping in workout emphasizes my jiggly butt and jiggly thighs. Bummer. I did need that information currently. Had to rest a lot, especially near the end. Loved all the stretching in the middle. Need to find my heart rate monitor for tomorrow. No joke. Was sore an hour after the workout. It's going to be a long sore day. are you?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

This Thanksgiving I was blessed once again to have my parents cook. I did contribute a very very small part and made two pies. One of the pies was a pecan pie, and the other was this buttermilk pie. Someone (I am so sorry I have forgotten who) gave us a pie book with a pie plate when we were first married. I go through my recipe books often donating the ones I don't use and this book, American Pie by Theresa Kennedy, always makes the cuts. There are some unusual pie recipes in the book. It appeals to my Frankenfood side. I still haven't made all the pies yet. This Thanksgiving, I tried two new recipes. I had the ingredients, and buttermilk pie sounded so interesting.

Buttermilk Pie

1 pie crust*
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons lightly salted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Ease crust into 9-inch pie pan; trim the overhang to 1 inch and flute the edges.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, flour, and melted butter and beat until the flour is completely blended. Add sugar and continue beating.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend.
5. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle it with nutmeg. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes**or until the filling is set. Serve warm or chilled.

The book says "An old fashioned recipe that might seem unusual to pie eaters today. The custard filling is tangy and sweet, reminiscent of pies made with cream cheese." It was interesting. It had almost lemony in flavor, but it was still distinctly buttermilk. It was eaten and well received.

*I buy a pie crust. Gasp! There is a recipe in the book for crusts. It currently does not fit into my slacker lifestyle.
** This pie is pretty fast to make which fits into my slacker lifestyle.

Mark Kennedy's Pecan Pie

We were given a pie recipe book, American Pie by Theresa Kennedy, with a pie dish early in our marriage. It has a lot of cool and unusual recipes in it. I usually make Aunt Dear's Pecan Crème Pie* because it is easy and delicious. I thought I had all the ingredients, but I didn't have any light corn syrup. I did, however, have dark corn syrup and all the ingredients for the pie on the next page, Mark Kennedy's Pecan Pie. It takes a little more work**, but it was good. It's much richer than Aunt Dear's. It was well received, and I came home with an empty pie dish. I also made buttermilk pie. The recipe for it is in the previous post if you are interested.

Pecan pie ready for T-day travel

Mark Kennedy's Pecan Pie

1 pie crust***
3 eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lightly salted butter, softened
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1. Roll pie crust into pie pan with 1 inch overhang. Flute edges as desired and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
3. Place the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer, or by hand until the butter is completely incorporated. (It turns a nice lighter brown)
4. Add the pecans and stir to blend. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 1 hour.

Yum yum good.

*I'll post this some time. It deserves its own post.
**I'm a slacker pie maker so it really doesn't take that much extra work.
***I buy a crust. Slacker. You can make one if you are purist.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Top 10 reasons the holidays kill my holiday spirit

I'm not trying to be Scroogie. Really, I'm not. I promise to write a follow up about what I love about the holidays. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and then suddenly it's December. I blink, and then it's 2014.The holiday season is in full swing, and I'm already stressed.

So here's my mental/emotional unload (aka whining) about how the holidays rob me of holiday joy.

10. I have more lists: During the holidays I have an extra list or two to plan gifts going out in a timely manner (normally a fail), holiday pictures/cards (still have last years) and projects to do during our time off (snicker away). This is on top of my normal lists

9. Expecting some relaxing family time and not getting enough of it: We have to do all those things we didn't have time for on the regular list or things to do the extra list. (To make sure we get some time, I put it on my list.)

8. All the candy: Halloween is the official start of eating badly when there is some kind of holiday all the way through February. Stupid Take 5 bars. How many calories was that?

7. All the starchy fatty food: Let's face it. Thanksgiving food is the same color as the leaves in Autumn. A good portion of it is shiny. Homer Simpson when rubbing the food on paper and seeing the oil spot said "It's the window to weight gain." And the gateway to elastic waistbands.

6. It's cold: The snow is beautiful and fun to play in. However, after a day or two it's gray and dirty. The single digit and negative wind chills suck.

5. It's dark outside: Nothing says "Celebrate!" like waking up in the dark and the sun going down at 4 pm.

4. Making small talk: I am terrible at small talk. I am great at staring awkwardly and ending a conversation feeling like a fool. I love catching up with my family and going to minglings with friends, but, oh, the humanity. I'll just eat my words; they have no calories.

3. Getting the family dressed up: We are not fancy people. We are barely matching people. What do you mean you don't have shoes? Those are your only stockings? Why didn't I put those on my list?

2. Commercializing the holidays: Skip the meaning and get to the marketing.  Are the 4th of July holiday decorations out yet? I need to get a jump on those.

1. Brown Thursday: Is it only called Thanksgiving until 6 pm when the specials start? Can we just wait a day?

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Hanukkah too. Blessings to you as the holiday roller coaster begins.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Naperville Marathon Race Recap

Two weeks ago I ran the Naperville Marathon. It was my 6th marathon, and it wasn't my worst time or my best time. Like any marathon, it was a long time.

I have found running a marathon is a lot like childbirth. There is a some amnesia, which allows you to do it again, and there are things that stick in your memory. Here are some things that will stick from the Naperville Marathon:

  • Bobbi and Dave drove me down which reduced my stress. In looking for parking we circled a parking lot with a porta potty. Score. I went to the bathroom before even parking. I also went again before the race. Double score. Runner's dream.
Second Potty Stop

  • I couldn't get up to my pace group. I started with the 5:30 pacers and passed the 5:00 pacer at Mile 2.
Me, Kim (who rocked it PR style), Bobbi and Dave

  • At the start of the race a guy was holding up a sign that said "Don't Sh*t Yourself" (* mine). I laughed out loud. I've run long enough that it's always a possibility
  • At Mile 6 I saw the man down with cardiac arrest and there were many people around him. The ambulance was not there yet. A gal in front of me waved to a friend half a mile ahead saying "I called 911." That's her marathon memory.
  • I saw Bobbi, Dave, Stacy and Ryan along the course. Spectators help make a marathon. Bobbi had my hat with a visor. I switched out my hat; it was so sunny. I gave her my jacket. It was in between warmth for the rest of the race. I kept my gloves and took them on and off all race because of the wind. I hate wind.
  • Around Mile 11, I accepted a full bottle of water from someone and downed it. My tummy felt weird. I was either dehydrated or overhydrated.
  • There was a hill at Mile 13. I played Katy Perry's "Roar" three times. I like hills. Boom.
  • I hate wind. Here's why. I push against it AND it makes me cold. The course was pretty open and although it was less windy than the previous day it was still windy.
  • At Mile 14 I saw Bobbi and Dave and I put on a pretty face.
  • I have trained on trails. The Naperville trails are much harder packed than the DPRT or Rollins. My calves hurt.
  • After Mile 14 I passed Dan who had passed me at the beginning. He looked like he was having a hard time. The second part of the trail chewed me up and spit me out. It evidently chewed up others too.
  • At Mile 18 my legs were tired and hurt. I expected this in the 20's. This was the beginning of R-angry.
  • As I was coming toward the end of the trail I thought the spectators were cheering for me. They were cheering for the 5:00 hour pacer behind me. That does not feel good. Double bummer. Wrong cheer. I did not want to be behind the 5:00 pacer.
  • The 5:00 pacer was awesome. We ran about 10 minutes and walked a bit. Their running pace was faster than mine. Their walking pace was much faster than mine. I could only keep up with them until Mile 24.
  • With tears in my eyes I let the 5:00 pacer go. I ran/walked and then at Mile 25 I kept true to my first marathon mentor Yvonne's words. "We run the last mile." I sucked it up and moved forward.
  • There was a steep hill at Mile 26, and my family was also there. Pride comes before the fall. I kicked that hill's butt, and then it kicked mine.
  • When I turned the corner to the finish I saw on the clock that I was over 5 hours. Seriously R-angry. (5:01:24)
Home stretch & they totally passed me before the finish

  • The curb after getting the medal and before the food tent was my hardest hill. The volunteer said it was the last hill I had to do. Ouucchh.
  • There was so much food I could barely carry it. The Italian Beef smelled so good. I wasn't hungry. That is a first. I am normally so hungry after a race. I had a Muscle Milk and waited for my appetite to come back.
  • At the stretching tent, my children hovered around me eating my snacks. The stretches hurt, but it felt great when I got up. There were cracker crumbs all over my bench.
  • I was back on Mom duty as soon as we started back to the car. Bobbi offered me a duty free car ride back repeatedly but I declined. I took a kid to the bathroom on the way to the car. I made 6-7 PB&Js in the car on the way home.
  • I ate my Italian beef about an hour after the race. It was the best. Seriously fantastic. Even better than the Red Robin we had later that night. I've discovered the secret to good tasting food; be hungry.
Looking over these, most of the first half has been forgotten, and it is the second half that sticks in my memory - when the pain, fatigue and eventual triumph come into play. I love Steve Prefontaine's quote "Don't let fatigue make a coward out of you."

Grit gets it done

Nice job Naperville on your Inaugural Marathon. I could do without the wind. I hate wind. I've gotten over my R-anger and have forgotten enough to look forward to marathon 7 sometime next year. I will keep you posted.

Steps of Faith

Today is National Adoption Day, and November is National Adoption Month. For those of you who do not know, our family is in the process of an international adoption. This week, completely coincidently, a big milestone in our adoption process took place. Our dossier was logged in China. The process to this point has been fairly bureaucratic. Our home study and dossier involved paperwork, interviews, doctor's visits, webinars and more paperwork. This week when the official letter came I felt pregnant again.

Here's our journey in a nutshell. We talked about adoption when we married. Two of our own and then adopt. We had two. Surprise #3 came pretty quickly after. We put adoption to the side. We brought it up again. We started talking to an agency. Before submitting our application we felt God might be pulling us another way. We hosted a child through Safe Families. We realized we still had a heart for adoption. We approached another agency. A year and a half later, here we are. And now we wait.

If you ask me how I feel, I would answer, "I don't know." Having a log in date did make my pulse race. There was panic and elation. We have really tried to keep our expectations limited. This week at the library I checked out 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green.' We sat down to watch it last night and I didn't know much about the story line. I was a perfect movie for where we were as a family in our process. The story is about a couple at an adoption center telling their story. They are unable to conceive a child but are miraculously given the child of their dreams, Timothy, for a short time. Timothy is different, having leaves on his legs. As parents, they make mistakes, they learn about themselves, they protect Timothy, they make mistakes upon their mistakes, they hover and they learn their dream child does not act as they expect. They are parents. We choked back tears. Okay, I let a few spill. I left the film comforted.

I didn't know what personality my children would have when they were born (and they are all very different). We adjusted as a family. That's what I expect. That's part of being in a family. And I'll make mistakes. Probably mistakes upon mistakes. I pray for our son and for my family and for us together.

I'm sure that there will be questions and comments. My friend Laury has some great insights on being respectful. (Unfortunately or fortunately, we field them now. Three times this week someone has asked if my two youngest girlios are twins. Umm. No.) Laury has gone through the process more than once and seeing her family regularly encourages me.

As I write this 'Happy Birthday' is playing in Chinese for the 50th time (because my girlios love the cd and know how to hit the repeat button), and my daughter just showed me a picture of the Great Wall of China she painted.

And we all move forward.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marathon Week Anxiety, Phobias and Superstition

Yesterday as I was switching from my Birkie sandals that I wear around the house to my winter Birks** my socks slipped on our flat bamboo floors, and my leg got a bit out of whack. I yelped and panicked. I then rubbed my knee for the next hour or so. Why all the worry? It's marathon week, and I'm a big ball of fuss.

Of course, today my leg is fine. It does highlight my feelings during marathon week. I worry. Unlike the weeks of my largest long runs where I finished my runs, took a shower, ate something and then went to work within an hour, I become a porcelain doll in my mind this week. This week, I am overly careful. Yes, this weekend is a culmination of four months or so of preparation, but all my fears of last minute injury and my fear of not being able to finish rise to the surface. Running and non-running injuries take people out during training regularly. I get that. As we come down to the wire, I'm waiting for the shoe to drop, or the leg to sprain, or something.

I am not a stranger to anxiety. I wish I was, but alas, I have big and little panic attacks. I am thankful for the friends I can call or text when anxiety hits who listen to me, encourage me and don't judge me (or at least don't tell me about it). I've had big attacks too that normally come at night, and I am thankful for a husband that is willing to listen to me, pray for me and hold me in the middle of the night. The big ones aren't frequent, but they do really really suck.

Last year before the Milwaukee Marathon, I had trouble sleeping. That's not unusual for runners. I woke my husband up panicked and scared about the race, being able to finish, blah, blah, blah. He answered, "Then don't keep signing up for them." He's so perfect for me. I laughed and went right to sleep. That race is my PR.

I'm also worried about what to wear. The weather has changed, and it's going to be cold. I'm not sure how many layers, which hat, which gloves, or which pants. Really, it's stuff I wouldn't be so concerned about it was a regular weekend long run, but since it's race day it's worth fussing about.

Like many runners, I am a creature of habit. I know what we will be eating the day before the race - Thai peanut chicken curry with rice and broccoli. Non dairy, gluten free. I know what I'll be eating for breakfast - Market Pantry fudge graham protein bars. The knock-off zone bar is better than the Zone Bar. Honest. It gets a bit superstitious. I understand the importance of sticking to what works, but I also know I've run on nachos for my practice runs. The nachos may have given me an extra boost.

Anyway, there are 5 days to race day. I hope not to get injured in that time, but if it happens it's out of my control. I'm #591 if you want to track me. I'm blaming my anxiety on the taper weeks. With all this extra energy, I'm spending it on fussing. I'm glad I have a big race coming up to burn it all off.

I'll look a lot like this this weekend - cart not included.

** My feet are flat like skillets. Birks keep the PF away. I really only wear Birks and running shoes. I even got married in white Birks. Comfort before fashion.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's about time.

I didn't think it was going to be, but it is. Back when I signed up for the Naperville Marathon (Yes, I registered before it sold out in eight hours) I had thought it would fit better into the family schedule, and since I was only doing one marathon this year I thought I'd PR. In November soccer season ends, cross country wraps up, and the schedule relaxes a bit. At least it did last year. Unfortunately, this year is not last year.

I was grumping a few weeks ago about my training. I was so frustrated. It was about time. Prioritizing time. Instead of having the ideal training season, running time was getting squished out of the schedule. In voicing my frustration to friend Kate, she reminded me about the joy of the race. Last year I had a Spring merrython coming off an injury, and it was fun. My Fall marathon went well, but the course was tough. I knew pretty early on in the course that there would be no PR. I was glad to get under 5 hours. It was beautiful though.

That's the type of marathoner I am. Under 5 and stay alive. My PR is three minutes under 5 hours. I was hoping this year to be stronger and maybe a little faster. I'd love to finish a marathon like I finish a half marathon. Feeling okay and confident. I'm realistic too. I'm not trying to knock an hour off my time. It would be nice to finish with a 4:45.

So a few weeks ago as my training was supposed to be peaking, my weekly mileage was lower than I wanted. My legs ached and so did my heart. I don't know if Kate meant to, but she pushed me to take stock. I now work four evenings a week and one afternoon. I am drained by the end of the day. Morning runs have gotten harder, and some weeks did not exist. I replaced one short run this training session with a cardio weight workout, which I notice when I run. I've run harder on my midweek runs. I've put in all my long runs at a comfortable pace. After taking stock, it's been about using the time I have not about the race time. Time. And changing my perspective on it.

It's taper time. A 14 this weekend, 10 next weekend and a couple short midweek runs until the 26.2. I am looking forward to the race. I plan to enjoy it. I love race day. I'll trust my training, and I'm pretty sure I'll finish, whatever the finish time. My attitude is much better. It's about time.

This will be my attitude (even if there's snow...maybe)

Friday, October 18, 2013

I am sorry that math and science hurt your feelings.

When I started teaching chemistry many years ago, I noticed something at parent-teacher conferences. Parents would come in and share their feelings on chemistry.

“I never took it. I heard it was hard.”

“I loved chemistry.”

“It was hard.”

“The math in it was hard.”

It was interesting to see parents’ reactions. Some portion of the conference would involve comforting them on their chemistry/science/math experience. I told students and parents that students often hit the “wall” in chemistry. It’s their first real challenge. Once they hit it, they had to work to get over it often involving finding help, and I would be there.

Since then I have become a math tutor and teacher, and I have run into the same feelings about math. People have strong feeling on math and science. At some point they have been frustrated, challenged and even angry. Math and science hurt their feelings.

When I was taking math classes myself, I had to deal with these feelings too. As the oldest student and only female in my differential equations class, I was amazed at the feelings it stirred in me. First of all, I never ever thought back in college that I would be able to take, much less pass, differential equations. The first two weeks felt like I was drowning. I had to deal with inadequacy, feeling dumb, frustration, and that “which one of these things is not like the other” feeling when I walked into class. This is for math. Math is systematic, process-oriented, organized and mechanical. I, almost a robot, was battling with feelings as well as the concepts and problems in the course.

In the end, I think I won both battles. I hunkered down. I read the book. I read other books. I did problems. I did more problems. I fell asleep with my math books on more than one occasion. I had to remind myself that failing this class was not a reflection of my self-worth before every class. Every class. I tried to separate my feelings from the material. The material is what it is. Learn it and don’t complicate it.

When asking one of my teachers if she thought I could go on in math, she said, “Well... Yes. You have the brains and the grit.” For most of us, it takes both. So often I hear people blame the first and not try the second. “It does not come naturally for me.” Naturally, whatever that is. None of my children spoke or read out of the womb. They had to learn and practice.

Here’s my point. Math and science are not your enemies. Some of the material has been around for a long, long time and hasn’t changed. Think of math and science like a river. In a classroom setting, the river has a particular current. You may find that it is a struggle to swim and keep up. So, struggle. It’s okay. Practice will make it easier. Put your feelings to the side. Do the work, however much you need to have success. Practice will build confidence and calm your feelings. Find others who swim to help you swim too, like teachers and other successful students.

If the current is too fast, you may have to find a slower current. Thankfully here in the US we offer streams and brooks as well as rivers. In other countries, often if you can’t swim in the current, you are taken out of the water for good. If you want to understand it, there are options available for you to build a strong base at your pace, like Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseWare.

Don’t stand at the side of the river and curse it. Math and science concepts are involved in every aspect of our lives. We need them, and we need people who understand them. If at first you don’t get it, don’t take it personally.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Marathon Season

It's here. Today was the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon (LFM). Next week is the Chicago Marathon. The leaves have changed color. The weather cooled down (at least today). Marathon season. Endurance. Training. Finishes. PRs. Real people being amazing. I do love it.

I also hate it. Today I squeezed out a few things in my schedule, including spectating the LFM, to squeeze in 18.6 miles. My legs ached, and certain miles I just hated. I was cold. I was hot. I was disappointed in my time. My water bottle leaked. Whine. Whine. Whine.

See, I'm training for a Fall marathon. I haven't told very many people. I really don't know why I didn't except that it was my little secret. A secret marathon. The more I've trained, however, the more I realize how much I need the encouragement of others. This year is the first year in two years that I haven't run a Spring marathon. With our family schedule, I started looking for a late Fall marathon for this year. I managed to sneak into the Naperville inaugural Marathon in November. The race sold out in 8 hours. Small, local and new. I'm pretty excited. I'm also deep in training and in need of encouragement. Encouragement is loud and clear during the marathon season.

It's been a bit since I've blogged. Instead of calling myself a bad blogger, I'll call myself a busy person. Definitely been busy. It is interesting when coming back to my blog how much I want to write, realizing that I haven't kept up and feeling like I'd have to write 10 posts to cover it all. Here's some things that have happened.

I gave myself a mild concussion which was so interesting as a nerd. Mandatory time off and naps.

I ran the Waterfall Glen Extreme 10 miler with my friend Dave, who rocked the LFM today. It was a 10 mile trail run, and it was FUN!

My family drove about 3,700 miles out to Montana to see more family and stopped to see the sights. I have a great family, and it was a great time.

My friend Kate and I went camping in her camper the night before running the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon. It rained most of the race, but that didn't stop us. We slugged out the half with all its beauty, and put the camper down in the rain. I still love that race. This year there were even medals.

I've been incredibly blessed to teach two math classes at the local community college. It is a fun adventure. It also takes energy, creativity and time.

My girlios ran the Fall Frolic 5k. Actually, my youngest ran the Kids' Dash. My 7 year old rocked the 5k with a 34 min finish, and I dragged my 10 year old who reminded me again at the end that she hates running and never wants to do it again. She'll forget by next year. Tee hee.

I've been to the bank, post office, UPS and FedEx store. And done it again. And again. Our adoption dossier is coming together. It's a waiting time before another waiting time. It's hard to be patient.

A handful of half marathons, three trail runs, a triathlon and next an inaugural marathon. It's been an exciting running year. We're in the heart of marathon season. I'm having trouble containing myself.

We found the End. It's in the Badlands.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Esprit De She Tri(umph)!

My nails are all chipped, and the polish is gone. However, a week ago Sunday they looked the best they've looked in years (see way below!). That same Sunday I competed, using the term 'competed' very loosely, in the Esprit De She Triathlon in Naperville, Il. Be warned, I am about to gush about the race. I had a great time. A great day. Even a great swim. Fyi, I am also an ambassador for the race, but I would be gushing even if I wasn't. It was so fun I might even do another triathlon. Oh yeah, I said it. I'm already trolling Ebay for wetsuits.

Who's excited! Me, that's who!
This was my third triathlon. The last two were six/seven years ago, and the swim spooked me. It has taken me a long time to try it again. Being kicked and swam over took the joy out of it. The Esprit De She is an all women's event, like the two other triathlons I had done in the past. All women's events are about encouraging and supporting women. They are designed for joy and success. They have a girly, pampering feel, which is awesome when juxtaposed to a competitive event aimed to kick your butt, hard. I managed to rope my stepmom into doing the tri with me. I only finished about five minutes ahead of her overall. She's tough. How many people can ask their mom to race with them last minute? It's pretty cool.
Just chillin on a Sunday with my stepmom
Let the gushing begin...

10 things I loved about Esprit De She Triathlon Sunday:

1. I had a great swim. I borrowed my friend Maria's wetsuit. It helped me stay warm and float. The water at Centennial Beach was 70 degrees. By the look on my stepmom's face when she started, it was cold without a wetsuit. When I first got into the water, the usual happened. I got kicked. I kicked. I couldn't see. It was cold. The first section sucked. Then as I rounded the first turn, I had more space to swim freely, and I could see. At one point, I thought to myself, "I can swim." I am not going to say it was effortless, but I was swimming and enjoying it. At one point, another swimmer grabbed my big toe, and I giggled. On the last leg, I thought, "I wonder what's different. Well, I've run five marathons since my last tri. I may be stronger..." Yes, I could think while swimming. It was a good swim. I finished the swim in 17:25 minutes. Not bad, for me.

2. I finished the bike course happily in under an hour (56:14). I hadn't done more than six miles consecutively on my bike this season. I had done bricks of bike, run, bike, but I hadn't had time for just bike. I got passed a lot. I should have been riding a beach cruiser with a basket full of flowers, maybe even a puppy. I did get lots of compliments on my ruu-muu. Plenty of people got a chance to see it.

3. I rocked my run. When I left the second transition with a better feeling about what to do, I told myself, "You are a runner. Be a runner." It took me about a mile to feel my feet which meant I only had two miles to go. "Run." I passed a lot of gals on the run. "Keep it up, runner." It had gotten hot. "Be a runner." To my surprise, I finished the run in 30:10. Not bad after a bike and swim.

4. The shirt is super cute and functional. My stepmom wore the shirt for the race. Normally, I would be totally against wearing the shirt during the event, but the shirt was so functional. It lends itself to the tri. It was made by Moxie. My stepmom and I met one of the owners after the race. Their patterns are cute, colorful and lend themselves to a variety of body types.

5.  I got to stroll the packet pick up with no girlios. According to tri rules, I had to personally pick up my packet on Saturday. Saturdays are crazy for me. I was going to try to pick up my packet in between soccer games but my daughter left her ball at the field so I had to go after my games. I arrived at the pick up about half an hour before it closed. I talked to the vendors and sampled products. I took this picture with Always. It was lovely. For all my friends with food allergies, check out Zemas. Tasty stuff.
I always try something twice just to make sure I don't like it, especially food.
6Great parking. This may seem little, but when I had to leave my house before 5 am, travel on mostly empty streets and watch the sun come up on the road, great parking puts the icing on the cake. The streets close to the beach were available and convenient.

7. The medal is adorable. Just look at it!

8. Manicure! As part of the post race party, manicurists from Lifetime Fitness did complimentary manicures. Chelsea, who did my nails, had been there since 7 am, and she said managers from three stores were there with her and others doing nails, braiding hair and giving massages. My nails are normally crappy. I do so many dishes it's just not worth it. It was a treat I (and my stepmom) haven't had in a long time.

9.The post race party was great, girly and unique. There were vendors, samples, massages, manicures, race results and even a place to plant seeds. My lime basil has germinated and is growing strong. There were even flowers to buy for race participants. All the money went to ovarian cancer research. In fact, the whole race supported ovarian cancer and that warmed my heart. My mom lost her battle against ovarian cancer.

Lime Basil

10. Hanging out with my college roommate for lunch! After the race, I changed my clothes, sprayed myself with something flowery scented and met my college roommate, Joy, for lunch in downtown Naperville. She is such a blessing. I loved catching up with her. I could have talked with her all afternoon. We practically did. It was fabulous day to end the day.

Here's the tri stats: Swim (17:25), T1 (5:34), Bike (56:14), T2 (4:03), Run (30:10), Time (1:53:24)

Fyi: Esprit de She is having another event, a 5K/10K, on July 18 in Chicago.

Did I mention that I had a great time?!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stepping Up to Wellness - Cancer Wellness Center 5K Recap

First of all, thanks to all who entered the Esprit de She giveaway. According to the winner is Bobbi. Congratulations!

And now for something completely different...a soap box, a PSA and a recap.

Cancer has touched my life. My mom, my dad and my brother. Friends. Church family. Cancer sucks. Angelina Jolie has been in the news recently due to her decision to have a double mastectomy because she has the BRCA 1 gene. Thanks to my insurance and my dad nagging me every so often, I got the genetic test for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene six years ago. At that time, I had two daughters, and my mom had died of ovarian cancer. I got the test done for my girlios. It was something I didn't want to pass on. I saw a genetic counselor, mapped my family history and had my blood taken. The results for the test took six weeks. In that six week time, I mulled about what I would do with my results. If I had both genes, I would have gotten a mastectomy and a hysterectomy. It was a long six weeks. A colleague's wife was tested right around the same time. She found out she had both genes and had her operations. Thankfully, I found out that I had neither gene. If you can, get tested. I did, however, fail a pregnancy test shortly after.

If you have not had cancer, the American Cancer Society is looking for volunteers to participate in a 20 year study called The Cancer Prevention Study 3. More information is available at or 1-888-604-5888.

My step mom volunteers at the Cancer Wellness Center. Quite a few of their services are free to cancer patients. If you know someone battling cancer, please let them know about the Cancer Wellness Center. There are several locations around the Chicago area.

Family and Friends

On June 19th, my family did the Stepping Up to Wellness Cancer Wellness Center 5k. Thanks to my step mom, it was a family and friend affair. My brother in from San Diego and my husband got roped in too. My middle girlio was so excited to run a 5k. I went early to run a few more miles with Bobbi. To put my running in perspective, I didn't run for two weeks from the Wisconsin half marathon until the day before I ran with Bobbi. Since I have a triathlon coming up, I did a 5 mi bike + 5 mi run + 5 mi bike the day before. My legs were tired, and my body was cranky. It was a struggle to keep up with Bobbi for the five miles prior to the 5k. By the time the race started, it was getting hot.

My husband did a bang up job getting the girlios to the venue. He did, however, forget the double stroller which acts as a sag wagon for tired girlios. My brother, my husband and I were each matched with a girlio. I planned on pacing my middle. My step mom and my dad encouraged us all. My brother ran with my eldest. She only walked for about half a mile and finished in 39 minutes. Hubs, who hasn't run in two years, finished with my eldest. Not too shabby. Within the first mile, my middle and little one actually ran into each other and fell down.  Skinned knees does not help with morale. My littlest tried to catch me and fell again blooding her elbow. By then my middle was not doing as well as she wanted. It was hot. My husband and I switched kids. My middle finished in 49 minutes. My littlest and I finished in 54 minutes. She chattered the whole time.

My dad is rockstar.

My dad won first place in his division, 70+. That's my strategy for winning races. Outlive everybody else. It was a great time. We enjoyed hanging out with the family all afternoon and strangely my girlios stopped complaining and played hard as soon as the race was over.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Giveaway and Reasonable Excuses

I just put on my running clothes. I've been up since 6:45 am and now it is 10:00 am. It is still questionable whether or not I'll be able to get out to run. This morning was the first morning in a long time that my husband has been able to sleep in. The dogs woke me up at 6:45 am and licked their lips for 20 minutes until I got out of bed. I fed them and started gathering my running clothes. With my running pants on my shoulder, I saw our bathroom light go on. My youngest was up. On other days when my husband has had the opportunity to sleep, the dog has puked, the kids have puked or someone has peed their bed. It's been awesome, and we are zombies for the rest of the day. Today, I opted to put my running clothes to the side and let my husband sleep. I thought it was a reasonable excuse to not run this morning. Other reasonable excuses have been illness, interrupted sleep and studying. I beat myself up easily for not running or working out, but there are some reasons that I don't question.

The lovely people at Esprit de She which sponsor the Tri I am doing in Naperville in two weeks are also sponsoring my first giveaway, a visor and an Esprit de She shirt. In order to be eligible, leave an answer on the blog or like the Facebook page and leave an answer there. The giveaway will run until Monday at midnight and I will use to pick a winner on Tuesday. Good luck!

What do you consider a reasonable excuse not to run/workout?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Moment for Mother's Day

I love being a mom. I am thankful for my girlios. My own mother passed when I was young, around the age of my eldest daughter. My father remarried when I was in college. I have come to love my step mom and appreciate her very much. She's been great for my dad and is a fabulous grandmother to my girlios. It's been foreign to me because I didn't have a mom or mother figure from 10 to 20. With this in mind I am nervous yet optimistic about venturing into these years with my own girls. The mother-daughter relationship is the stuff bestsellers are made of. With three girlios, I expect at least three volumes.
Nemo and Dori photo bombed us!

As a youth, I never remembered Mother's Day. For a while, I would do something for my dad, but it didn't stick. Now, as a mom, we don't really celebrate Mother's Day well. It's at a terrible time of year for us. My husband has coached track for the past seven or eight years and May is track crunch time. He's zombie tired around this time. I've been taking classes and it's finals time.  Looking back on the last nine Mother's Days, I've been sick and called in for antibiotics. I've worked. I still cook and clean. My girlios selectively listen. This weekend even my dog is sick. My husband and I joke that he takes a nap on Mother's Day, and I take the nap on Father's Day. We generally don't do gifts for either day. This Mother's Day I'll set up coffee at church and study for my finals. Something normally happens during the weekend that disrupts 'ideal' plans, whatever that is. I don't expect anything except some sort of curveball.

This is not a gripefest. It's a commentary on a mom's life. I have had several mom friends comment that vacation is doing the same things as every other day in another place. It makes me laugh and cry because I identify. But, that's the joy of being a mom. One of the things I loved about teaching was that no day was the same. It's the same thing in the motherhood. And the hours are much much longer.

So what's my point. When my husband and I got married, I wanted to stand at the end of the aisle and take in the moment before things moved so fast and were over. A minute or two to look at my husband, look around and absorb it. Very Ferris Bueller of me. Unfortunately, the musicians couldn't follow the program, and I didn't have that moment. Don't get me started. It upsets me more than finding out one of the cameras didn't work during our wedding photo shoots. I digress.

I wish all the moms an absorbing moment this Mother's Day. A chance to mentally stop time, cherish your children at the age they are, relax in the chaos and be loved on a little. Good job moms. Kids of all ages, clear some space for your mom, mentally, physically and emotionally. She's amazing.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cheesy Thoughts on the Wisconsin Half Marathon

First of all let me say how blessed I feel to have people to run with on a regular basis. I've run for a long time and often it has been alone. I enjoy running alone, but in the past few years I've come to love running with people too. Whereas some people might get together to catch up over coffee or a meal, I have found a lovely group of people that I can catch up with on a run. A lot of talking goes on during a run. Last week I ran a race with Bobbi, and this week I ran a race with Kate. I cherish my running friends, especially with my crazy schedule.

That being said I was super excited to see Julie in the car when Kate and her family picked me up for the Wisconsin half this weekend. I haven't seen or talked to Julie in a long time. Our schedules are different, and she's expecting her first child this summer, (looking super cute btw). I have missed her, and it was good to catch up a bit.

Kate picked me up at 5:45 am which in retrospect may have been a little later than we should have left. The race started at 7 am. Let's just say it was another National Anthem that I had to stay seated for. We did get great parking, but we missed the pictures with the running club and the blogger picture and the picture with my friends from church. We did make it to the porta potties, and that's where we were when the race started. It's chip timed, and we weren't racing so no rush.

I ran the Wisconsin half for its inaugural and second year. This is it's fifth year. The last two years I have done Pittsburgh with my sister, which I highly recommend. When people say "hill" at the Wisconsin, I snicker. "Hill" in Pittsburgh has a completely different meaning. Wisconsin is flat and it is sort of an out and back course. There's a roundy bit at the beginning, but the course overlaps at two points. It was so fun to say "Hi" to so many people I haven't seen in a long time. Spring has finally sprung in the Midwest, and it's running weather.

Kate and I didn't have any time goals. We wanted to have a nice race, and that's what we got. The weather was perfect. Overcast and 50s with the sun coming out after the finish. I wore a jacket and periodically took it off and put it on during the race. The race flew by, or at least that's how I felt. We caught up on new life developments during the first few miles. Ooohed at the lake. Said hello to many many people. Had fantastic ridiculously sweet Gatorade. When we stopped for Gatorade the second time, about 6 miles in, they gave me a full glass of Gatorade which is nearly unheard of in a race. Kate asked me what was taking so long. I can't drink and run at the same time. I said, "They gave me a full cup." She replied, "You don't have to drink it all." I couldn't waste it. I drank it all.

Kim captured our smiles at the finish.

The only thing that bothered me was my jaw. I had a stuffy nose for a day or two prior to the race. My sinus cavities under my eyes hurt with the pounding of the pavement. I think I was trying to stabilize my head by tightening my jaw. Of all things, I don't think I've ever had running pain in my face before except for the occasional exercise induced headache.

At one point Kate remarked that how amazing it is that we could be out here running 13.1 miles and how our bodies allow us to do over and over again. We happened to be at a point where the race stretched out, and I could see a lot of runners ahead of us. It was pretty amazing. This was my third half  marathon of the year. Kate and I have both done multiple marathons. I am definitely a distance runner. Being able to run is truly a blessing. I do not take it for granted.

Around 11 miles I was ready to finish, but we ran into many friends at that point in the course so it was meet and greet until the end. 2:16:37 official time. Smiles all around. We kept it fun. Some of our training runs sucked so a fun race felt great. Bonus: another cute shirt and a medal/bottle opener.

On mission from Gouda

After the race there were even more people to greet. Wisconsin has a beer and brat (wrapped in a tortilla) available after the race. Since I'm not really a fan of beer I was happy to have a diet Pepsi, which came in handy later in the day. The brat tasted fantastic. I've learned the secret to good tasting food. The hungrier you are the better it tastes. Rocket science. We managed to get home in time for me to coach the afternoon soccer game, have a play date and introduce my girlios to Star Wars. It was May the 4th after all.

Medals, Brats and Smiles

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bear Trax 20K Race Recap

I had so much fun at the Bear Trax 20K with Bobbi, and since I have two races in seven days I don't want to forget to recap it. We had a grand time. From the pictures, thanks to Bobbi, it looks like we did more posing than running. Not true. There was also hills, mud, vitamin Oh, laughter, a running bear and cookies. FYI: the guy in the bear suit finished long long before us.

I love running with Bobbi. Actually, I love talking with Bobbi and running with her is a bonus. She's a mom, and we have a few kids at similar ages. I had a chance to unload some of my mom woes on her and find out that I'm not alone. It's very comforting. We both currently have weepy offspring. She also has a science brain, and I can be even more geeky.

The picture doesn't show the royal purple and the lime green
The Bear Trax 20k and Brownie Shuffle 5k are run in Lapham Peak, WI which is on the north portion of the Kettle Moraine forest preserve. We arrived early thanks to Bobbi, and the race shirts were a pleasant surprise. Super cute. Already wore it this week. Bobbi and I had recently gotten Nathan Hydration Vests. We decided this was a good race in which to test out our vests. It was nice to have another person to help make adjustments. Although Bobbi had a few more problems with hers during the run we both loved our vests. Like any set of moms given extra storage space we filled the pockets. Bobbi brought a real camera. I had my phone and half a box of Kleenex. The vests were awesome.

This may or may not be at the top of a hill
Bobbi can kick my running butt any day. She's gotten so much faster and stronger in the last year. I wanted to make sure that she knew that I was sorry if I slowed her down. I'm slow and cool with it, but I don't want to be a burden to faster runners. However, hills were a great leveling field. We both pooped out. The course was so hilly, but it was beautiful so I forgave it. After two days my quads did too. Honestly, by the last two kilometers, I was ready to be done. Did I mention that it was beautiful? It reminded me of cross country skiing in northern Wisconsin as a kid. I would definitely do this race again.

This may also be at the top of a hill. Catching my breath.
At the first aid station they offered us cookies. That chocolate chip cookie was fantastic. At the last aid station we had a sugar cookie, and its aftertaste hung on until the end. Not so good.

I really am a tree hugger.
There was a lot of vitamin Oh. Here's what I like about vitamin Oh. It's good for me, even though I may not like it at the time. And it is very open to interpretation. Oh, dear me. Oh, look how pretty. Oh, my legs are going to fall off. Oh, look another hill. Oh, let's take a picture. Oh, I can feel my heart beating out of my chest. Oh, I should do more hill work.

Happy Me! So pretty!
It took us about 2 hours and 40 minutes.The course went all over the place. Mud, sand, roots, rocks. It was chip timed, but I really didn't care. As Bobbi's shirt said, "Run Happy." By the end other people were using the trail because it was a gorgeous day. The race started out overcast, and by the end the sun had come out. One man asked how long the race was. When we said that it was 12 miles he gasped and exclaimed, "12 Miles?!" We laughed. At the very end a man with no shirt ahead of us was running the trail but wasn't part of the race. He turned, and we almost followed him except the race director yelled, "Don't follow the naked man!" Good advice.

Looking good at the finish.
Tomorrow is the Wisconsin Half Marathon. Wish me fun!

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Protein Scones

This recipe is adapted from an oatmeal-raisin scone recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book circa 1989. I grew up with the Joy of Cooking as a cookbook staple at my house, and my husband brought the BH&G cookbook into our marriage. I confess I use it more than Joy. If I needed know what to do with fresh goat's milk, Joy would be the place to go. If I need a meal in half an hour, it's BH&G all the way.

I've made the oatmeal-raisin scones many times before and added cranberries/white chocolate chips or raisin/chocolate chips or even made them according to the recipe. Stunning. I know. Last week as I noticed my rarely used chocolate protein powder, Muscle Milk. Since I've drastically reduced my milk consumption and making a smoothie gets the blender dirty, I haven't been using it very much. I do use my vanilla protein for an overnight refrigerator apple oatmeal cup which is fantastic. More on that later. School is almost over. Anyway, I thought adding a couple of scoops of protein powder to the recipe would be delish, and I could offset the ooky aftertaste with a little buttermilk. After making it, I declared myself a genius, and the next day made another batch. Yesterday I made substituted 1 cup of brown rice flour and 1/4 cup of coconut flour for the white flour and added 1/4 cup of peanut butter. Very good and really filling.

This was the last of the gf peanut butter model. All gone.

I know it's not a traditional scone as it uses egg for a binder. It's definitely not low cal, low fat or sugar free. That, however, often translates into delicious. On another note, because I am a lazy cook, I don't often roll out my scones and cut them into cute triangles anymore. It gets another dish dirty, and I'm probably not caught up with dishes anyway. I mix the dough to the right consistency in the bowl, deliberately using a large bowl, and then scoop out the scones with our ice cream scoop. Lazy but effective. Scones are fast and tasty.

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Protein Scones
Fresh out of the oven...soon to tummy
1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/3 cup butter
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Cut butter using pastry cutter or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in protein powder. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Combine egg, buttermilk, milk and vanilla extract in another small container. Stir into flour mixture until moistened. Add tablespoons of more milk if needed until dough makes large ball or teaspoons of flour if too moist. (If you want) move dough to lightly floured surface, pat dough into 7-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges. Place on baking sheet. Brush with milk (again, optional). Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Serve warm.

Tweak and substitute with what's in your kitchen. I probably will.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Week (or so) in My Open Toed Shoes

Last week was so emotional. It's hard to believe that the Boston bombings were just 10 days ago. And within that 10 days, a plant blew up in Texas leveling a town.  Our area hit an all time record for rain fall in April. April's not over yet. Roads, homes and schools flooded. It snowed, hailed and graupeled. A family friend died, and we mourned his passing. The days were dark, cold and overcast. The sun came out once, maybe. And it rained some more.

Seamus the Weather Dog
Dailymile sent me my weekly review yesterday and instead of the usual "Awesome, Gnarly or Terrific", it didn't really comment on my four mile week total. Hmm.

I've become an old woman, or my dog and I really are becoming more alike. One of my dogs, Seamus, will sense a front coming in about four to six hours before. If there's a thunderstorm, he shakes like a leaf. Weather systems now give me headaches. I feel them coming. Not acute pain, just dull constant annoyance. I long for them to pass or it to rain to relieve the pressure. I had a headache all week.

Birkies and a Dora BandAid

I also had a toe ache. After my 20 miles in two days, my toe began to throb. I'm fairly familiar with black toenails. I've gone a full year with all my toenails. That's very exciting. I own purple nail polish so I can match the black toenail accordingly. I expected the pain to subside. Sleeping the first night after acquiring a black toe nail is very uncomfortable. Expected. When I ran with Kate on Tuesday, the pain increased. And the pressure didn't subside. Running was out for the week. Granted, I didn't want to run in the blah weather, but I also didn't want to put on a shoe. Ouch.

By Saturday, it was time to do something about it. I won't go into details, but my husband took care of it. I was a little squeamish. The relief from the pressure was fantastic. It's healing up pretty well. I'm eager to run again. And I am eager for warmer weather.

It's also been a time to take stock and be thankful. Hug my girlios. Cherish my husband. Celebrate what I've been given. Attempt to relax. Enjoy this moment before trying to plan the next. Smile at the little things. When I saw the sprinklers on in the rain yesterday, I truly cackled. Ugly laugh slipped right out.

Me, My Girlios, Dad, StepMom & Friend Post Fun Run
On Monday, my family did a Boston Solidarity Run at the Runner's Edge. I couldn't do the one with the running club because of my Shrek toe. It was so nice to run in the sun. My girlios ran too. They were all rock stars. And my six year old is a machine. She ran almost the whole thing, and I don't think she sweat. She's been asking me to run fun runs. This summer, we'll take on a 5k together.

Monday was also the warmest sunniest day in a while. My girlios spent a lot of the day outside, making up for the last week. Another front and headache came through yesterday, but the forecast looks good. A lot of sun, warmth, healing, growth and all those things this Spring brings. I'm glad. We could use it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Runner's High and Heartache

This is not the post I expected to write today. Today was my last day teaching a 5k class at the homeschool group. My students completed a 5k today. I had one sick and one injured student, but the other 14 ran/walked/finished a 5k within the class period. For some of them it was their first 5k. For others, it was just a chance to stretch their legs. My top runner came in under 23 minutes and runs barefoot. My second runner took several minutes off his PR. Everybody finished. It was an exciting day for me. I don't feel qualified to teach a running course. I run for my own joy, and that's what I wanted to share with my students.

The weather was great. 60s and windy. I made cookies.
I brought bananas. My running club, GRC, donated bags and stickers. I ordered medals, which I love, and I medaled the students when they crossed the finish line. I hooted and hollered when they finished. I tried to simulate that race feel. The joy of a race. That feeling of accomplishment. The love of running.

An hour later, one of the other moms told me about Boston. I felt like I got hit in the gut. I couldn't believe it. My heart hurt more and more. I could tell I was spiraling down when I heard there were fatalities. When we pulled in the driveway, one of my favorite running songs came on the radio - Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move." I completely lost it. Tears and gasps. Why would anybody target a marathon? Why would somebody try to destroy something I love so much? The Boston Marathon is something I know I will never run, but I respect it dearly and the event staff and the runners and the spectators who support the runners and the city.

I've been soaking in the media information intermittently today. It's overwhelming. Horrible. My heart truly breaks. I can tell that I'm moving through different stages of grief too. I feel helpless. I've been praying. I'm terribly angry. Right now, I want to make shirts that say, "I am a runner, and I'm pissed off." Don't mess with my love of running. I'll keep praying. Try to find some way I can help. Pray some more. And grieve. And run. And run.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Impromptu Race: South Shore Half Marathon

So life is hectic. Last week I was became overwhelmed. The crazy pace I usually keep went completely off balance.  My paperwork load doubled. I got a jury summons for finals week. My brain was not gelling on my school work. Time was crunching. The girlios were crabby, and I joined them. Sleep has not been easy. Too much on my mind. On Friday I took my first rest day in 34 days of running and felt guilty about it. That's just wrong. I needed a break. For me, a race is a break.

So yesterday, I ran my first official race of the year. It was my second half marathon this year. (Our running club did a DIY half in February. Didn't get a chance to blog it. Bad bad blogger.) I did the South Shore Half Marathon a few years ago. I didn't really decide to run until race morning. My dog won't let me sleep again until I've fed him if my alarm goes off. I had been texting Kim back and forth about going the night before while staring at my studies. So after feeding the dogs I headed up to Milwaukee on Sunday morning to register and race. South Shore is normally on Saturday which means it conflicts with my husband's track schedule or our soccer schedule. This year it was on a Sunday. After talking to my husband about it, he put a twenty on the table and said, "Go run." He's such a keeper. One of the great things about South Shore is that it's 20$ race on race day. It can be as low as 13.99$ if you sign up early. There are no medals and no shirts. You get snazzy running (garden) gloves, chip times and snacks from Aldi. And a great out-and-back rolling course along and near the lake.

I was so excited about the diet cola because I had been craving a diet coke all week. When I had it later in the day, it was the worst diet cola I've ever had. It tasted like a melted watered down diet cola Slurpee. Ook. Yes, I still ended up drinking it. It took me a few hours, but I drank it.

I met up with Kim and two other bloggers, Jessica and Rachel. It was pretty windy and in the low 40s when the race started. I knew I was overdressed for the wind at my back. Wind and I are not friends. I sported my Ruu, which got a lot of looks, and I felt really bright for an overcast day.

In retrospect I guess I did have some goals. Secretly, I wanted a 2:15. Last year at this time, I came off an injury and ran a 2:27:32. Midsummer, I ran 2:14:49.  I wanted to feel like I've make some strides in speed and strength. I also wanted to leave it all on the course. I run happy and generally, that doesn't involve emptying the tank in a race. I genuinely wanted to end this race tired.

It was pretty clogged on the trail at the beginning. I'm slow so it doesn't really bother me. I'll pick a person to pace behind for a while and either let them go or pass them depending on how I feel. My legs felt like lead which I didn't expect because I had taken two rest days, the first two rest days in over a month. Generally, I don't bring music to a race. This time I was going to listen to tunes on the way back after the turn around. However, I put them on between mile 3 and 4 and took off running. My pace increased substantially. There were some puddles on the course and in going around one of the big ones on the way back I soaked my socks and shoes. Blah!

I didn't wear a watch so I had no idea how fast I was going. I did know that I was exhausted on the second half. The tank was emptied early. The wind was making my eyes water, and I may have had red eye. I've had a lot of eye allergies lately. Sometimes when I run in the Savannah my eyes get bloodshot, and I don't know until I've stopped at the bathroom. Then I realize why people I've passed look at me funny. The second half of the race was a struggle to run happy.

Two awesome parts of the course were when a little boy ran to meet his father at mile 11.5, and the song that came on when I saw the finish line. The dad picked up his son while he was running, and the whole family, including mom, had smiles on their faces. It encouraged me on the course. So cute and special. It reminded me of when my girlios ran me in for my first marathon. When I saw the finish line, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" came on. No explanation needed.

I finished with a clock time of 2:18:36 and an official time of 2:17:05. I'll admit I was a little disappointed. I worked hard. My body hurt. I tried. Looking today, I was 20th in my division. For me, that's decent. I left it all on the course, and today my knee is still angry. It's also a good baseline for the Wisconsin Half next month.

Here's the group after pic, including Alyssa, who was doing 20 that day. They went off to lunch (super jealous), and I came home to return to my world of studying, laundry, dishes, groceries and girlios with a half marathon under my belt. And homemade mac-n-cheese, thanks to hubs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring has sprung, and the sap is still running.

It's supposed to snow today. Most of it is hitting south, but we still have strong winds. The ground is still partially covered with old snow. It is pretty miserable out. The calendar says it is Spring. Like most Chicagoland seasons, the weather doesn't match the calendar.

It doesn't look like this, not even close.
It was with the likelihood of a warm up during March (last year we hit 80) that I decided I would streak through March. Actually I didn't start my streak until March 2nd and figured that I would run through April 1st; an April Fool's Day ending seemed appropriate. As of today I have run 23 days in a row and it looks like I may make it to the end.

My friends, Bobbi and Kim, ran a 5k everyday in December. I thought that there was no way I could run everyday. (By the way, I ran 140 miles in December. I like underestimating myself. I keeps me pleasantly surprised.) The March running streak challenge had some promise for me. I only had to run a minimum of one mile. I've run a mile in jeans on my treadmill (dreadmill) a few times just to get my mile in. And I thought it would warm up as the month went on. (Ha. Ha.) My favorite running weather is 50's with a slight wind. It's supposed to hit 50 on Friday, and I am ecstatic. The bitter wind and cold has held on strong this month. The sun's presence and the temperature going just above freezing has caused some personal excitement.

Although I am not at the end of my streak, I've noticed a few things:

1) I can run everyday. The slow short milers have been great recovery. I am not going all out every run and keeping the next day in mind.

2) I will make time to keep the streak alive. Even at 10 pm I can squeeze in a mile. I am normally kicking myself for waiting so long in the day.

3) When I decide to do a short run, I almost always want to run more. I've gotten into a habit of running. My body enjoys it, and time slips away a bit. I feel better. All the things I love about running come out.

4) My treadmill may be my second choice, but it is sure nice to have an option to running outside on crappy days. My dreadmill has some programs on it, and I've had the chance to hike mountains and do intervals this month. I haven't done the programs in a long time. It was almost fun. Close but not quite. It is still a treadmill.

5) I have gotten faster. This I didn't expect. (Disclaimer: For me a 10 min/mile is fast.) Last week I managed to hold on to a 10:17 average for 8 miles. (I did get a quarter-sized blister but am refraining from posting the picture. You're welcome.) One of my runs had had a 9:58 average. Craziness. And then running again the next day. Sheer craziness.

I have almost put in 30 miles this week. My weekly mileage is up (which I expected with a daily run).The streak is alive, and I look forward to ending the month strong.

Who knows? I may just keep streaking.