Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First 5K of the Season

Our goal race is a repeat of last year's Jingle Bell 5K. To train for this, Ed ran with the kids a few times, Helen has been running on Mondays with an after-school club, but ultimately we have not done as good at getting them running as we have before other 5Ks. When the chance to run a Turkey Trot with Moms Run This Town came up, we took it. Might as well see where everyone is at, I figured.

Ed has been ill, so he decided to run with Helen. Purportedly, her 11+ minute pace was all he could muster. Connor was jazzed about being able to take first place (the faster runners opted for the 5 mile route) which inspired him to drop from his 10 minute miles to a 9 minute mile to end it. It was a nice sprint, made nicer by the fact that my new Hokas were doing their best to cushion my steps, so I didn't end the run in pain.

To be faster than last year at the Jingle Bell run, Connor needs to get below 33:23, which he unofficially did last weekend according to my watch. To beat his best 5K time officially recorded to date, he needs to break 28:47. I'm pretty sure he can do this, particularly given that he was able to muster a sub-30 with virtually no training. I'm betting in two weeks time he can shave a couple of minutes off. Helen managed about a 35 minute Turkey Trot, so she's also got a shot a getting a PR when we run our goal race.

Fingers crossed for swift feet in two weeks!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Odyssey of the Mind - Vehicles are in my future

The majority of my OM team members expressed interest in the vehicle problem. Without knowing much about OM, here is what I do know. At the first meeting I attended, one of the coaches told me it took her several years of coaching before she would coach a team in the vehicle problem. Apparently, it is one of the more technical problems the students can solve.

So I asked a mom I know through a few things in Arlington about it, and she said "this is the hardest problem to coach. Your son will love it. But you are going to pull your hair out". So I sought the advice of a friend who coached last year at another school and she told me she just didn't give it as an option. But she also told me I should feel free to call  her when  it gets close to competition time and I am totally losing my sh*t because she will talk me off my proverbial ledge.

Though it's not yet official, I have started reading the vehicle problem in bits and pieces. Hopefully it'll make sense soon. If it works, it's going to be awesome. If it doesn't work, we're going to promise each other a high five and ice cream or donuts at the end - or maybe both.

Hopefully my co-coach knows more than I do!

And in other news, every time I step foot on the elementary school campus, another parent tells me how their second grader cannot be placed with x and y, but should be placed with z and a on a team - and it's not at all obvious that this GRE-like problem has even one palatable solution. Remember when I had one happy team? (Yeah, I've basically forgotten, too.)



Friday, November 20, 2015

Lost groove?

Tuesday, I ran 7 miles with someone I'm getting to know in the neighborhood, G.. We ran together a few years ago, but she was so much faster than me, I think I had to finally tell her to just go without me for the last couple of miles. She is, however, a very interesting person and while I was getting faster, she was having babies.

She had a preemie three months ago, and already she is at  my speed, so I'm guessing she'll leave me in the dust soon. But, I was all too happy when she posted on my moms' running board that she was looking for someone to run with in the neighborhood - even more happy when she posted a pace that matches mine. My own running partner fell though on Tuesday (MCM injury) so I shot G. an email and she was happy to meet up with me.

We ran pretty fast, but not as fast as she ran pre-baby, and not as fast as I thought I could run the route. I was tired. And she kept apologizing for holding me back and I was all "pant, huff, pant - you're not holding me back!".

On Thursday, I met a friend for my usual track workout, and somehow, the predicted rain turned into no rain, which was a super pleasant surprise. By the end of the workout, I felt good. But then today, I ran with a couple of friends for what should have been 10 miles but I had to walk a bit in the middle, probably cutting my portion down to 9 though they still got 10 in. And I was tired. So tired.

Possibly, I am tired because poor Ed is still struggling to make it through the work day, so doing laundry and other tasks around the house just isn't going to happen. Possibly, I feel tired because my shoes are worn out. It is now that I wish I kept better track of how many miles I logged in my shoes, but I do know it must be several hundred given the total number of miles I have run since I got them and my fondness for picking them up whenever the weather is decent. Also, I wasn't nearly this tired on Thursday when I wore other shoes.

In any case, I'm  tossing these babies (I already have an identical pair that I wore for MCM), and am hoping that I haven't lost my groove. Because I don't know what I'd do without running in my life. I was not exaggerating in my recent work performance appraisal when my boss complimented me on MCM and I told him that running was, quite literally, saving me.

Cross your fingers. And if all else fails, if you see my groove, send it back my way!

At some point, getting rid of worn out shoes will be a less emotional task, right? I still remember when I bought these at a sidewalk sale and couldn't believe my good fortune. I'm going to miss them, even with their replacement already firmly in my shoe rotation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Illness - part 1

We spent a few years skating away from sickness in our house. The rare day out of school, headaches (me), but nothing that some rest and advil didn't take care of. Until last year, when the whole house went down with flu. I was the last one standing in that situation, and fell the moment I stepped onto the airplane headed home for Christmas. By the time we arrived in Kansas, the whole family was sick, though Helen and Connor were on the mend.

This year, it seems the flu has already visited us. Ed spent all his energy moving some furniture on Sunday, resting here and there, and by Monday, he was basically immobile. It hasn't been pretty. Never have I been more excited to have our house cleaned than yesterday, when our cleaner came and worked her magic.

I'm now walking around the house reminding the kids to wash their hands constantly, I wipe off light switch covers and door knobs whenever I have a cleaning product in my hand, and I'm hoping that by being in the office - I'm able to duck most of the germs.

The kids have also become experts at getting themselves to school, which of course they are perfectly capable of, but usually Ed or I still walks or bikes with them the half mile in the morning. So far, nobody else seems to be sick. Knock on wood. I am really hoping not to go through a repeat of last year.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The odyssey before the Odyssey

For two years, there has been chatter about starting an Odyssey of the Mind team at Connor and Helen's school. The time we got the closest, we had a mom ready to head it all up and coach with me assisting, and then she got promoted, another key volunteer got put on a Countywide committee and poof, our dreams were gone.

But this year, I decided to just push forward and do it on my own, and see what happened. I went to a coordinator's meeting and figured out what I needed to know. I found an after-school class teacher who was willing to come to an evening event and describe the program.

I made multiple calls to the school-wide list, held the meeting (with maybe 30 kids in attendance - so a lot), and asked people to turn in forms expressing interest by October 14. I then went through all those forms, grouped children by grade, figured out when they could all meet, and set a meeting time and announced teams.

The 5th grade team will be coached by myself and a friend's husband, who has a background in middle school teaching and theater - so he's basically perfect for the job. A friend will coach the second grade team, with support from two other parents, and no parent volunteer was found for a 3rd - 4th grade team, so that team won't be participating. Or so I thought.

I thought everything was set, and then everything got turned upside down yesterday. A mom on the current 2nd grade team took it upon herself to invite many people to the first team meeting - which was supposed to take place tomorrow. (I don't know - does this seem strange - that a person who is not the coach would invite many other children to a meeting telling folks there might be a second team? Is this how you would do it for baseball or soccer? No. It is not.)

To be clear, I don't object to a second team. In fact, it's a good thing. But why it is being established two days before the first team meeting was to take place is beyond me. And why the establishment of it got integrated into the existing team meeting is also beyond me. Especially when the coach and another parent on the established team told the recruiting parent NOT to go and recruit a bunch of people.

Sometimes we do things for our children. Sometimes we do things for ourselves and pretend it is for our children (I'm looking at you, recruiting mom). And I did finally tell this mother that her actions have ultimately been very disruptive to me. She is disrupting what should have been the first meeting focused on team building. She is turning my well-stocked team with plenty of volunteers into a potentially flailing team as it gets split up. What I would like to say is "take your daughter, go coach your team, and leave me out of it". And in retrospect, I probably should have. Instead, I tried to be nice saying we would have her coach a team and split up the two assistants I had on the existing team so she can have one. But splitting the assistants means I lose both boys on my team, because the assistant she'll get has one of the two boys, and I don't want to leave the boys alone on teams.

I told her she should set a deadline for indicating a child would participate - mine was back in OCTOBER!, and then we could divide the children up into two teams. I told her when she set that deadline, she could tell me what it was, and then tell me who the new kids were all at once.

But apparently she is still having a lot of trouble understanding I do not want to communicate about this any further than that because already, she has emailed me the name of a person who will definitely be participating. I DO NOT WANT TO RECEIVE AN EMAIL EVERY TIME SHE GETS SOME TIDBIT OF INFORMATION - at least have the courtesy to give it all to me at once and stop taking up my time.

Also, recruiting mom, totally cute your excuse about me not getting the email you sent when I called you on your lie to the other parent volunteers about me losing your (unsent) email. The excuse? You either sent it to the wrong email address or it got caught up in your outbox. So 1990s of you.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Can Change Happen?

Last year, I joined the English Language Arts curriculum committee. Ostensibly, the committee meets and makes recommendations to the school board. Whether the committee really has a voice, I'm unsure.

I joined the committee because all of the committees have great representation from parents with connections to special education, but almost no representation from parents of advanced learners. It seemed like an interesting enough adventure.

The first meeting I went to was horrible. Not only did people on the committee not care about my kids sitting in classrooms drooling from boredom, they were openly hostile. At one point, just by mentioning that I was at the meeting because there had been an announcement at the gifted advisory committee that it might be a good idea to try and join a committee, a man (who is thankfully no longer on the committee) stood up and yelled at me about how until we solved the achievement gap, there was no way our committee was going to deal with anything else.

Now, step back in time with me a few years, before I was a parent, when I spent my days researching public policy for people with disabilities. Somehow, Ed, a friend of his, and I got into a discussion about education policy. His friend pondered whether the whole system would be better off if more resources had been sunk into him and Ed - the best and brightest in the class. I told him no, the system would not be better. That he was allocated plenty of resources and we should be worrying about whether we could get everyone ready to take a job.

Fast forward back to today. Now that I'm a parent with a kid sitting bored in class, my tune has changed. So I understand where this guy was coming from when he yelled at me (though it was a bit of an overreaction and an awkward first meeting, to say the least). But I'm also keenly aware that the achievement gap can be solved in one of two ways - you can bring the bottom up, or you can put bricks on the heads of the kids at the top. And I'm really not interested in seeing a brick on my kid's head - and I've become more concerned with levels than gaps. Every child ought to perform at the highest level they can.

And so it has come to pass that I just turned in a recommendations report that, prior to my pen, was focused almost solely on struggling learners, which now includes some important mentions of the County's first goal - which is to ensure that every student in the County is challenged and engaged. We will debate the report at our next meeting. I'm curious whether my edits will stay in and if they do, if it even matters.

I figure I might as well try, right? And if nothing else, I'll force a dozen people to sit and listen to the other side of the story for one meeting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wardrobe Update via prAna - Office to Playground

Most days, I wake up, take a quick shower, and then dash out the door to get to work (3-4 days per week, add in time for a run). On days when I pick Helen and Connor up from school, I need to make sure I leave my office at 4:00 so I can get to their school by 4:45. If they don't have an after school activity, the schedule gets shifted earlier - with my departure coming at 3:00.

I then race to school, meet the kids, and typically take them to soccer / piano / trumpet / or violin. This means my clothes must be able to transition from work to hanging out at one of these places, and quite possibly to heading to a school meeting after that.

Enter prAna, a company Stonyfield introduced me to. They also hooked me up with the skirt to the left. It's the Trista skirt in spice. It's from prAna's organic cotton line and fits true to size (which is good, since I failed to try the skirt on until I put it on immediately before I headed out to a baby shower).

The skirt easily meets the standards in my casual office, and is stretchy enough to allow me to comfortably sit on a blanket while I watch kids practice soccer, or run around with them on the playground waiting for a sibling during an activity. The skirt also feels durable enough to  go the distance, which is important to me, because I tend to wear clothing for several years.

The only thing else  I need as  I run from one place to the next? A cup of Pacific Coast Strawberry Oh My Yog, Stonyfield's latest whole milk yogurt offering - which comes with 7 grams of protein per serving!

I'm looking forward to a week from now when soccer practice ends. I'll actually miss seeing the kids play - they've both made huge leaps this season. But I will enjoy having an evening back.



For a 15 percent discount on prAna clothing, enter JBYF15CAH at checkout.  (Not valid for Influencers, on Gift Certificates or with any other offers; Valid Nov 1 – Dec 15, 2015.)

Thank you to prAna for the skirt and Stonyfield for the new treat I've been enjoying at my desk.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Halloween with Helen

Helen and I partied with her class for Halloween, which ended up being a lot of fun for me. I'm in her class every couple of weeks running a book club (which has been extremely fun for me) but I'm generally not around when her teacher is around. Helen insisted I attend her Halloween party, and when I saw one of the volunteer jobs was to sit and read books at the end of the party, I saw a clear match.

I showed up to the party before it was time to start reading, which meant I got to turn Helen into a toilet paper mummy. I was pretty happy when she decided to dance around her classroom pretending to be a mummy rather than spend the second half of the allotted time wrapping me up. I think she saw that my larger-than-second-grade-size would make it difficult to cover me with our second role of toilet paper.

Happy Halloween!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Putting my body back together...

I am now two weeks out of the Marine Corps Marathon and today's run finally made me feel like I was put back together. But it took a lot.

For the first couple of days after MCM, I rested. On day 3, I ran 2.5 miles, just to try and get the lactic acid that was likely in my muscles to start easing its way out. After my last marathon, this was enough, but after this one - I was still sore.

And then a friend of mine sent an offer to try out Massage Envy, and since there is one located less than a mile from my home in Clarendon, I was happy to say yes (even though it meant missing part of one of the Royals' World Series games). I booked a 9:00 PM appointment so I could see Helen read a story at a school event before heading off to heal my muscles.

I had warned the spa when I set my appointment up that my body was a mess. The massage was fantastic.  I should've gone sooner - and the next time I run a marathon, I will! For only $60, you can get a first-time massage -  and since they got my legs back to working order, I'm guessing they can fix a lot of muscle aches.

After the massage,  I went on another short run during my regular track workout, one more easy run that resulted in me walking up the final hill, and today, finally, I made it about 10 miles at a pretty decent clip without feeling exhausted.

I've decided to drop my full marathon entry, which I picked up cheaply at last year's Rock-n-Roll marathon, down to a half. I'm spending the winter working on my form, including cashing in a certificate I won at a silent auction for a stride analysis. I think spending the next few months working on speed will be better than continuing working on endurance. Not sure what a reasonable goal for the half will be, but I'm thinking somewhere around 1:45 is reasonable (though a stretch, for sure). A friend wants to run a 1:37 half and use it to qualify for the NYC marathon, in order to avoid the lottery, but I'm pretty sure I need a bicycle to go that fast.

Thank you, Massage Envy, for setting me on the right path back  to feeling good!


Disclosure: My massage was complimentary. I'll be heading back after long runs in the future!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Walking home

The loveliest thing about Daylight Savings Time is surely the walk home from school when Helen and Connor stay late for special programs. Our street is bathed in golden light right at 5:00.