Sunday, May 29, 2011

My extreme workout revealed

I've had several people ask me lately about my workout routine. I know a lot of people are into P90X right now. I have friends training for marathons or 10Ks. Others do spin class, boot camp or other types of extreme workout classes with fancy names.

Me? I'm more of a runner. I have been sticking with the same routine for the past 10 years or so and it has really been working well for me.

Basically, the way it works is that every so often, I decide to strap on my running shoes and go out for a 1-mile run. This typically happens about once every two years (give or take six months or so). That is why I named it My Biannual Run. This should not be confused with a semi-annual run, which would be a 1-mile run twice a year. This is once every two years, so you really have to stay on top of your calendar.

Now, I run about a 14-minute mile, so it's really a sight to see if I come jogging down the sidewalk. "Jogging" isn't really the right word, but I have been looking through the Thesaurus and I'm not sure there's a word in the English language that really describes what I do. It's not really an "amble." "Meander" doesn't work, or "mosey." "Stroll" isn't quite right or "toddle." "Sashay" is close, only because there is a bit of a swing to it.

So, the entire time I am sashaying my one-mile run, I am thinking about how I am going to continue doing this more than once every two years. I think about doing it three times a week. I decide I am going to work my way up to three miles and then six.

The problem is that with a workout routine like mine, all conditions have to be perfect before I can set out on My Biannual Run.

  • I have to check with all of my runner friends who live in or near my neighborhood to find out when and where they run and then I have to completely avoid those routes. There is nothing more discouraging than being passed by someone you know. Trust me.
  • I have to run when it's starting to get dark outside, but not totally dark. This is so people don't stop and stare at me when I'm running. When you run a 14-minute mile, people tend to roll down their windows and ask if you need help. They aren't sure if you are ill or maybe you are trying to run from something. I don't like to cause people to worry.
  • At the same time, it can't be too dark because of the tripping factor. I can't even tell you how many times I have had to run the last half mile with bloody knees because I tripped on the sidewalk.
  • Finally, I can't be hungry. But I don't want to eat too close to the run. I could get a side ache, which could cause me to have to walk.

So, to find all of these conditions lining up at exactly the same time is difficult. In fact, it only happens about once every two years. But let me tell you. When it does. I am ready.

That's basically the key to my whole workout. Just stay ready. Have cute jogging clothes on hand and be prepared to put them on at a moment's notice. And when the workout is done, you can take a deep breath because a moment like that probably won't come around again for a while.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Confession Stand

Last night, I got to pay part of the price for my decision to sign up our 8-year-old for Little League baseball. It was my turn to work in the concession stand, or as my son likes to call it, "The Confession Stand."

Up until this spring, I had a few seasons under my belt as a soccer mom. I'm also an experienced karate mom, gymnastics mom and ballet mom. I figured baseball mom couldn't be THAT much more difficult, right?

Little did I know that baseball mom is not just a casual hobby. You must show devotion to be a baseball mom. You have to be willing to endure long practices even when it's 30 degrees most of the spring. You must be able to show enthusiasm during 2-hour games at least twice a week. You have to help your child keep track of a bat, a hat, baseball pants, a jersey, a bucket of baseballs, a glove, as well as a special pair of underpants and a wonderful accessory called, "the cup."

You must be willing to sell candy bars.

And the final installment in your penance is taking a turn in The Confession Stand.

I arrived for duty about 15 minutes early, and as cheerfully as possible announced, "I'm here to volunteer for my shift!"

A 17-year-old was standing in the middle of the narrow concession stand talking on her cell phone. She glanced my way for a second and gave me a blank stare. Another woman was backed into the corner by the cheese machine and pointed at the high school girl. Apparently, the girl on the phone was my boss.

She hung up her phone and continued setting up the stand without looking my way or saying a word. I decided to introduce myself to the other woman to see if she might respond.

"Hi! I'm Emily," I said. She mumbled something back with a big smile, indicating she didn't speak much English.

A few more minutes passed, and The Boss said, "Well, are you ready?"

The other mom and I nodded.

The Boss showed us the cheese machine, the chili machine and the oven with the rotating hot dogs. She instructed us that pretzels should be heated for 30 seconds in the microwave. That was it. Training was over.

I started bombarding The Boss with questions she clearly thought were a little over the top. "How much does everything cost? Where do we put the money? How much chili should we squirt on the chili dogs?"

A few minutes later, another couple arrived and cheerfully announced, "We're hear to volunteer for our shift!"

Now The Boss really didn't know what to do. There was only one game being played that evening and the temperature was dropping by the minute. This did not bode well for a mad rush in the concession stand. The three of us were already packed tight in the narrow booth. It was going to be tough to even fit two more in.

The Boss called her dad. "I've got four people here," I heard her say anxiously. After a muffled conversation, she turned to me and said, "He wants to talk to you."

I took the phone and tried to work things out with The Boss's dad. He really didn't know what we should do either since the only way we could get back the $50 we paid at registration was to work our two hours in The Confession Stand. I talked it over with my co-workers and the husband of the new couple decided he would go to practice. The rest of us would stay.

"Well, is there a good system for how we should do things here?" I asked, envisioning us working in unison, with one person on hot dogs, someone else on cans of pop and The Boss taking orders.

The Boss gave me her blank stare in answer to this question. I still thought it was a good idea and told the New Lady that she could be on drinks. I would handle the candy and chips. Smiling Lady who didn't speak English could do the hot dogs, pretzels, nachos and the cheese machine. We really didn't have much choice since there was no where for any of us to move in the stand.

Now, I realize this next statement will not sound nice, no matter how I try to phrase it. But the problem with the confined situation was compounded by the fact that The Boss was quite a bit overweight. And apparently, her designated spot was right in the middle of the stand where she needed to lean over the counter and write a paper for a class. She did this while consuming various bags of potato chips filled with the liquid cheese.

Well, to say business was slow would be somewhat of an exaggeration. The four of us spent most of our time checking our smart phones and every hour or so we would look up at the clock only to find out it had only advanced by two minutes.

After what seemed like days in The Confession Stand, it occurred to me why this job was so difficult for me.

I had completely lost my identity.

No one in The Confession Stand cared my name. They didn't want to know where I lived, or what I did or how many children I had or where I went to college or my hobbies or any other facts about me. They just wanted to focus on the random people who might want a can of pop, a hot dog or some nachos, squirt the appropriate amount of liquid cheese into the little cup, count the change and try to occupy their minds for two hours until we could go home.

On the other hand, I realized that this might be the only time in my life I would ever see these three women and the least I could do was get to know them. I wasn't sure if Smiling Lady knew what I was saying. The Boss was still giving me the blank stare. So I did my best to pose questions to New Lady to pass the time. By the end of the evening I had at least learned about her children, her job and her husband.

I also made a slight inroad with The Boss when she couldn't figure out how much change to give a customer who had ordered $2.50 worth of food. I helped her decipher that since the woman had given her a $5, plus two quarters, she needed to give her back $3.

Finally, my two hours were over and I ran to my car. Now that I knew the secrets of The Confession Stand I hoped never to return. I had hoped to stock shelves and flip burgers. I wanted to play some music as we rushed around grabbing Skittles for droves of customers. I wanted to hand out Snickers and make ice cream cones.

Instead, I had stood elbow to elbow in the small booth with the three silent women for almost two hours. I had at least made a connection with New Lady, but I walked away feeling empty. I longed for something more. I know it sounds weird, but I felt bad that I might never see those women again in my life and I didn't even know their names.

True confession.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The movie class

When I was a kid, one of my favorite activities was to sit in front of my cassette player with my brother or possibly a few cousins or friends and record a "show." Our little talk show would include plenty of banter, a few songs, some jokes and me giggling so hard you could barely hear what I was trying to say.

Yesterday, I got to relive my childhood 2011 style.

Our 10-year-old has loved making up "shows" for as long as he could talk. He definitely seemed to be making up stories in his mind even before that.

About a year ago, we purchase a computer just for our home schooling work and gave him free access to iMovie. I showed him how to find the tutorials on the Apple web site and let him go to work. I decided not to even try to teach him what I knew. I wanted him to teach himself.

Since then, he has made dozens of little movies. If he can't convince his siblings or neighbors to participate, he cuts out characters from coloring sheets — Angry Birds, Sonic, Mario Brothers — and films them with different voices. He has even been known to FILM the other kids playing the Wii and make a movie from it. (AHHH!!!)

As his obsession with iMovie has grown, he came up with the idea to teach an iMovie class to his friends. I was completely in support, especially when I saw how much he was learning from planning the class.

He had to decide what he would teach. He made a brochure to advertise it. He talked to his friends and their parents to recruit students. He planned out the whole day. He wrote a script for a movie. He wrote a speech to introduce the class. He made notecards. He practiced. He cooked muffins for the snack.

He had his trial run of his four-hour class on Friday with five friends (plus his brother and sister). He really did a good job keeping the kids organized, explaining their parts, getting them to practice the movie and then teaching them iMovie. It was a long day and had it's challenges, but it was a lot of fun. He is hoping he can teach more classes in the future.

We only ran into a couple of snafus, but one turned out to be a huge blessing. I convinced him we should incorporate the "green screen," which we had only used one time before to make a movie. I didn't take time to iron the big pieces of green fabric we use for our green screen, and that created some challenges in making the movie look good.

Then, about five minutes into the editing segment, our iMovie crashed. Fortunately, I had set up another work station with my computer for the kids to use, and I quickly started importing the video on the other computer to get everything working.

While the kids were taking a break, I started frantically searching for the installation disk for iMovie that came with the computer. Little did I know that the computer I bought several months ago actually came with the installation disk for iMovie '11, even though only version 10 was installed.

In the midst of all of the chaos of making homemade mac 'n cheese for nine children, helping my son keep everyone interested in the class rather than a game of freeze tag and trying to take care of the toddler, you should have seen me geeking out on the new version of iMovie.

Not only does it have cool new "themes" for our movies, but it has a really slick and simple format to make movie trailers.

After everyone left, my son and I spent the next few hours sitting next to each other at separate computers creating the movie trailers of our dreams. On one computer, he was living the life of a creative 10-year-old I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams. On the other computer, I got to sit back and relax like I once did in front of my old cassette player — but this time 2011 style.

And so, I leave you with the links to our movie trailer as well as his final production, which he did on his own. The trailer was a lot of fun to make. But it was even more fun to hang out with my son and learn something new together.

The trailer:

Old Grandpa's Vacation:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I woke up around 3 a.m. on Sunday and the room was spinning violently. I tried to process what was happening.

Where am I?

What day is it?

Don't move your head.

The last time I felt like that, I had eaten some food that had spoiled. I knew that if I tried to stand up I would probably be throwing up. I had not planned for this.

I mean, I had thought about a lot of things before we made this trip:

What if I have car trouble on the highway? Well, I guess that could happen at any time, so I'm going to hope it doesn't happen now.

What if I can't keep track of all of the kids? Well, we will have to go through the rules. The 10-year-old is very responsible, and he can help me.

But what if I get a horrible stomach bug or food poisoning and we are stuck in a hotel room and the kids have to find a way to forage for their own food for two days? 

Hmm. I didn't think about that one.

Somehow, I was able to make the room stop spinning long enough to find some water and Tylenol. After a few more hours of sleep, I woke up feeling better. I must have been very dehydrated.

And that was really the worst thing that happened on our little adventure this weekend.

My husband had to go to California to be with family for a funeral. I really encouraged him to go and it WAS the right thing to do. But when I woke up Friday morning and he was gone, I was having trouble thinking about the third weekend in a row without him. The fact that it was Mother's Day weekend wasn't helping.

On Saturday morning, instead of getting dressed for soccer, I told the kids, "Pack your bags! We're going to the Dells."

A few hours later, we were on our way to the Wisconsin Dells to our favorite indoor water park. I thought for sure the place would be deserted. What kind of crazy people go to an indoor water park in the beginning of May? The weather is just starting to get nice. Don't most people go in the winter? Or in the summer when they can be outside? And WHO would go to the Dells on Mother's Day? Won't all the moms be enjoying a nice brunch at a restaurant and maybe a pedicure?

I was wrong about that. On Saturday, the place was packed. By Sunday, it had emptied out a lot. And by Monday, it was a nice small group. But still, there were more people than I had ever thought.

We had a fabulous time. The kids had so much fun. And I had so much fun being with them. Just being their mom. Not worrying about anything else that had to be done. It was good to get away from the house and clear my mind.

But once in a while, I would feel that longing in my heart. It was a feeling of, "but this isn't what Mother's Day is supposed to be like!"

Who says? Expectations are an interesting thing. They are often my downfall.

Maybe for the crowds of people who packed that place this weekend, that is what Mother's Day IS supposed to be like. Yeah, it would have definitely be a LOT more fun with my husband. But I also would have missed out on some precious moments with just me and the kids if he had been there. There's something about having to pull together because it's just mom that creates a bond.

I got to spend tons of time cuddling my 1-year-old as we floated around the Lazy River, time and time again. The three older kids all worked together to help me cook meals in our room or take care of the toddler. They couldn't run in opposite directions like they would have if Dad had been there. So, they all stayed together and had a blast.

They all laughed at me when I was scrounging around in the van searching for coins to buy myself my Mother's Day gift. I feasted on a $2 Coke from the vending machine (my first Coke since January!) and a slightly smushed Resse's peanut butter egg I had hidden in my purse.

Who says a Coke and peanut butter egg aren't an excellent snack? Well, my expectation that I should be treated to a fabulous brunch in a restaurant.

Who says a weekend laughing and playing at a water park isn't a rare treat? Only my expectation that I should be pampered and shouldn't lift a finger all weekend.

So, I decided to dump the expectations and enjoy the time. And who knows. Maybe a trip to the Dells on Mother's Day will become a new tradition.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Things home schoolers say

I took my kids today to do some placement testing for a home-schooling co-op we are considering for the fall. While they were taking their tests, I was chatting with a mom at the coffee shop upstairs.

She was telling me all about her son, so I asked her the natural question: "What grade is he in?"

What was I thinking? You would think I would have learned by now the inherent danger of posing this question to another home-school parent.

"Well..." she began. "In math, he would be in third grade. But in reading, he is probably in fourth or fifth. Of course, that's his reading level, but he doesn't exactly fit into a classroom with that age group because he doesn't always pick up the subtleties of books at that level. Oh, he's 7."

I'm still hoping that my eye roll was only in my mind and not visible to her. I mean, I get it.

Just 15 minutes earlier when I was checking my 6-year-old in for her testing, I found myself rambling to someone about: "Well, she would be in kindergarten, but she's in second grade math, although she's only on lesson 17, and she's doing Saxon, which is kind of difficult, but it's not nearly as hard as Singapore, which they do here, but they do Singapore at one grade level behind and since she is doing Saxon one grade level ahead, I think she'll be OK." (If I were better at math, I might be able to figure that one out.)

This is what drives me crazy about home schoolers. Now, I want to clarify that I am not ACTUALLY a home-school mom. You have to home school for at least THREE years to actually BE a home-school mom. Since I have only home-schooled for TWO years, I am officially still a mom who pulled her kids out of private school for a couple of years. We're on our way back. Oh, yes, we are. JUST as soon as all of those other schools can get everything adjusted, scheduled and lined up to perfectly to fit all of our needs.

When we were eating breakfast this morning, I think my 8-year-old summed it up best. None of the kids wanted to go to this unknown, suspicious co-op situation where they would have to (heaven forbid) take a TEST to get in and (Oh, me, oh, MY!) arrive at a certain time ONE DAY A WEEK!

"I'm not sure I'm going to like the curricu-um," the second grader said with what is left of his speech problem.

No problem, then! You can just go to public school five days a week from 9 to 3 and you can do whatever the heck curricu-um the state of Illinois and the wonderful administrators of our school district tell you to do!

"Hmmm...." he pondered.

So, here we are. My kids are officially so wise about curricu-um that they are making their own decisions about whether they prefer Shurley English or Rod and Staff. Should we really consider a home-school co-op where they are going to (gasp!) read "Island of the Blue Dolphins" and "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson" INSTEAD of "The Hobbit" and "The Horse and His Boy"?

HOW will we survive if we have to do Spelling Workout instead of Spelling Power? Or Answers in Genesis science instead of Apologia?!?

AND the next thing we know they are going to tell us that we can't eat breakfast four times a morning. You mean we are going to have to sit in a classroom for two hours straight with nothing but a water bottle?

Oh, I do actually love the home-schooling lifestyle, as much as I hate it. I love how we have complete flexibility to do school anytime of the day we would like and because of that flexibility we sit down at our dining room table for almost the exact same five to six hours everyday with our heads buried in books.

I love how we can pick and choose our curricu-um based on the strengths and weaknesses of every child in the family and because of that we can switch curricu-um twice a year to make sure no one has to (deep breath!) be restrained by someone else's standard of how or what we should learn.

Yeah, I will admit that it gets a little irritating that my kids think the second they are done with any given subject I should rush immediately to their side and check their work. They hold this belief so dear that they think it's perfectly acceptable to yell at their teacher through the bathroom door to let her know their precious writing assignment is waiting to be carefully read and admired.

And so now you all know WHY if it's too expensive to send my kids to private school and I'm not perfectly happy with public school, at least I am considering a co-op where I can drop them off and walk away in freedom for several hours a week.


What time do we have to be there again?


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You are more

For the past few weeks, I have been in a pressure cooker. The heat has slowly been increasing with each passing day. But I didn't even realize I had hit the boiling point until yesterday.

That was when I erupted into a blubbering mess. I couldn't stop crying. No matter what anyone said to me, it seemed to make me cry even more. A simple, "Hi. How are you?" caused me to run into the restroom to hide my tears. It was ugly.

As women, I think most of us have had those moments. We all go through times when the pressure seems to build.

  • I have had five baskets of clean laundry sitting in the same spot for a week now. Meanwhile, five more baskets of dirty laundry have accumulated throughout the house.
  • I haven't had time to go to the grocery store so my kids and I have eaten so much fast food it's not even a treat anymore.
  • I have deadlines for my job that are looming over my head.
  • I'm feeling totally burned out with home school and rushing to get things done everyday.
  • My kids have baseball practice and soccer practice nearly every night of the week.
  • It's all been compounded by the fact I've been single momming it for a week. And just when we thought my husband was going to come home, he got stranded by a cancelled flight in one of the last places on earth I would wanted him to be: Japan.

Of course, then there are all of the other pressures, some of which are real and others imagined.

  • I need to be a wonderful wife.
  • I need to be a better friend.
  • I need to be beautiful.
  • I need to run a 5K.
  • I need to read the Bible in a year.
  • I need to read at least 60 of the books on the list of the top 100 books ever written.
  • I need to write on my blog.
  • I need to take a photo everyday.
  • I need to watch American Idol.
  • I need to send thank you notes to at least six people.
  • I need to pay the bills.
  • I need to sign up my kids for activities for the summer.
  • I need to plant some flowers.

And if I do all of those things and do them well, then I will feel good about myself. If I can hold it all together, look good, do great work, and have children who are clean and well-mannered, then I will be successful. I will be worth something.

Well, yesterday, I didn't achieve any of those things. In fact, I failed in every single area, and I was feeling pretty low. I am thankful that in the middle of my ugly cry, a group of friends gathered around me and told me that they loved me for who I am and not what I do. And they reminded me of something very important.

My worth does not depend on any of those things.

I am MORE than all of that.

I am God's workmanship. (Eph. 2:10) The New Living translation says, I am "God's masterpiece." I am created by him, and I am renewed by Christ Jesus. I was bought at a price. Nothing that I have done or ever could do will buy my worth. Nope, I'm not full of value because of all of the great things I do.

 even in my worst moments...
 because of God's love for me...
 I am more.

Related Posts with Thumbnails