Friday, March 7, 2014

My Changing Running Anthems

Running is like being involved in a really bad relationship. You want to break up with running, really. It makes you ache in ways you never thought possible. It demands more time and attention than you really have. You think it loves you, but then it trashes you over and over and over. Kelly Clarkson put it perfectly in "My Life Would Suck Without You". What a cheery and uplifting running anthem.

In college my running anthem was, "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy. Now I run, singing, "Being with you is so dysfunctional. I really shouldn't miss you. But I can't let you go."

Last April, I sat in the doctor's office and cried embarrassingly when he told me I should think about retiring from running. He was looking at an x-ray of my knees that looked sadly like the children's song, "Hagdalina Magdalina." One pointed North and the other pointed South. I had always pictured my geriatric self stringy and impossibly wrinkled and tan from running so many races. I was going to die while running. Or at least while hiking briskly. So I wiped my tears and set out to fix my knee.

I tried shots in my knees. They didn't work. I tried physical therapy. It didn't work. (And for once I faithfully did my exercises for two months straight). I tried not running (my knees still hurt). I tried Glucosamine. It kind of helped. I think.

But the fact remains that my knee still aches sometimes. And walking up stairs holding a child kills me softly.

Since my knee hurt no matter what I did, I decided to run anyway. Because, like that boy that only called me every six weeks, I missed it. And I kept texting and texting and running never returned my texts. And it avoided me in the halls. But I went to running's house and stalked it. (This is not what I did in a real relationship. Just this metaphorical running relationship. I promise.)

For the past four months I have been slowly (often sloth-slowly) building up my mileage. And finally I can run 6 miles again (once a week with two days of recovery after). I'm not sure when the last time I did that is, but it's been a few years. My left knee which has been the cause of all this running angst, is passable. I'm planning on running the Ogden Half in May and by then I might have a new running anthem. How about Katy Perry's "Roar"?

Friday, February 28, 2014

How to Take a Walk with a Toddler and a Preschooler

With the weather being so nice lately, we've enjoyed going on some walks. Today, we walked around the block (about .7 of a mile, according to usatf running routes), and I'm sure if anyone saw us it looked like the circus was coming to town. Ellie started out with her coat and helmet firmly secured, riding her bike. Norah started out with her coat, a balloon, and riding in the wagon. About 200 feet into the endeavor, Norah and Ellie were running down the sidewalk, looking back at me every once in awhile to say, "Ha-ha-ha-ha-Ha!" in a taunting voice. I was pulling a wagon full of bike, helmets, balloon, coats, and a couple of rocks they found in the road. Later, Ellie was pulling the wagon, Norah was riding on my shoulders and I was holding rocks in my hands. And later still, Norah was riding in the wagon and Ellie was practicing braking on her bike while I pulled the wagon and guided her handlebars down a hill. 45 minutes later we arrived back home. And I loved it. And they loved it. And life is good.

After nine years of having a toddler (four different kids, not nine years of the same kid), I think I have finally figured out how to take a walk with kids. I used to march purposefully around the block, thinking about how I needed to get home so I could clean the house/write a blog/lay down and perish. I was trying to get their little heartrates up, so I could do my part to combat childhood obesity. I figured walks should take maybe 10 minutes tops, and we should all move forward in a linear fashion, arriving at our destination out of breath and triumphant. That never happened. There were many times that I'm sure my neighbors thought, "That crazy lady is beating her children in public again. They should just stay in the house." When really, the children had insisted they wanted to go on a walk, but discovered halfway into it that they were tired. And when you're halfway you have two options: 1. Turn around or 2. Keep going. Both involve walking halfway again. But I've persevered with my walks, and now I bring you:

WALKING WITH CHILDREN: Tips to help you smell the roses

1. Bring a wagon. Even if they insist that they will walk/ride the whole way. They will want to ride their bike, or a scooter, or some bouncy ball thing with a handle, for about 100 feet. Just far enough for it to be a huge pain to walk back to the house and put the bike/scooter/ball away. So either you carry it, leave it in the road while your child screams hysterically and hits your back, or pull it in the wagon cheerfully.

2. Be prepared to take a rest(s).Even if you are only three houses away from your house. Don't be afraid to pull up a square of sidewalk and have a nice little chat while you're resting.

3. Don't try to count it as extra running mileage. Your heartrate will not go up. (It might spike at short intervals when chasing your child away from the road/garbage/dog poop they inevitably discover.)

4. Bring Food and Water. You might think "I'm just going around the block. I'll be right back." But you won't. (Don't leave the stove on either.) And you will probably have to bribe one of the children somewhere along the way.

5. Just think, "I don't have anything better to do. I don't have anything better to do." And believe it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Resolutions 2014

So now that it is February, and everyone has already given up on their resolutions, I am going to start mine. I've decided to keep it simple this year. Once, I saw a ginormous Christmas tree, decorated to the max, huge gold and cream bulbs, yards of beautiful lacy ribbon, sticky-outy-flower things, tons of lights, and a ginormous star towering on the top limb. But right in the middle of the tree was a beautiful wooden sign, painted and decorated elaborately that said, "Keep It Simple."  So not that kind of simple, more like Charlie-Brown's-tree-before-it-was- decorated simple. 

2014 Resolutions:
1. Always choose love
Last year I fell into this bad habit of choosing swearing, and anger, and exasperation followed by heavy "woe-is-me" sighs. And I thought, "Why do my children try so hard to ruin my life?" When I think they were just trying to survive. I was pretty sure they were having nightly meetings about how to make me angry and disgusted. Turns out that I was imagining this. I was choosing to feel those things in reaction to normal, everyday life. And I was miserable and I think my kids were probably miserable too. I thought a lot of things like, "How many gosh darn &**%& times do I have to tell them to not ____________?" And "How many times is it going to take for them to learn that _________________?" Well, it turns out a lot of times. And that's okay. That's normal. 

When I turned my angry parenting magnifying glass to my own life, I realized that it takes me a lot of times to learn a lesson. And sometimes, even when I've learned that if I eat a whole bag of chocolate chips I will feel very sick, I still eat a whole bag of chocolate chips. So I'm choosing love instead of swearing and exasperation. Love and understanding for everyone, everywhere. And I hope my children will choose that for me too. 

2. Run a half marathon 
I've lost that loving feeling for running. And I'm trying to dig myself out of the afraid-hole that I buried myself in. Move legs move! I'm focusing with lasers on this goal. (I mean it. I'm printing out a sign and I'm going to point my laser pointer at it every morning.) I'm signed up for the half in Ogden this May. I understand that there are a lot of little goals underneath this one like 1. Eat right (I'm currently going 30 days without eating sweets) 2. Go to bed on time (10:30 at the latest) 3. Exercise 6 times a week (this is mostly done in the early, early morning). I'm going to do it! 

And that's it. Once I run the half marathon I'll have to choose some other goal, but until then, that's what I'm concentrating on.

And just for fun, here's a little synopsis of last year's resolutions and how they were (or weren't) accomplished.

1. Be More Awesome--Nailed it. I am totally more awesome this year than I was last year at this time. In what ways? I bought a pair of skinny jeans-powah! Awesome oozes from every pore in my body when I wear those babies. (And I am only like 5 years behind the fashion curve. Way more awesome than 10 years behind it.) And the number one measure of my awesomeness? My dance skills. 
2. Eat less crap--Well, this one was on again, off again. I'm a yo-yo crap (not real crap, just junkfood crap) eater. I was moderating nicely until Thanksgiving. Or maybe it was Halloween. On second thought, that might have been Easter that I gave up and just started giving myself permission to eat badly. So not so good on this one. 
3. Get out of bed--Hey, I'm doing it! I have an occasional Monday or a Wednesday that I don't make it up at 6:30, but most mornings I'm up and at 'em, Adam Aunt. (It totally helps that my children are not babies anymore. And I am not nursing them. Not that I nurse them when they are not babies, but anyway, you get the point.)
4.  Cut Ellie's bedtime routine down from 1.5 hours to 10 minutes. We are down to 30 minutes (most nights). So I have made some progress. 
5. Beat Mike in the Spudman--Alright, I didn't beat Mike in the Spudman. However, I did beat him in the swim and the bike. He caught me in the first mile of the run and didn't look back though. This is my year, right knees? Right?



Monday, January 27, 2014

How To Make An In-Wall Bookshelf a-la IKEA

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Big Hole in the Wall IKEA Bookshelf Nice In-Wall Bookshelf

Background

When we bought our first house, the basement was "finished". Kind of. For whatever reason, when it was built they never got around to finishing the part around the water main shut-off valve. Instead of using one of those little access panels that mount directly on the Sheetrock, they decided to allow complete access to the valve by installing an accordion door (see picture above, complete with accordion door still in packaging).

After years of looking at that eyesore, we finally decided to fix it. At first, the plan was to install the dang accordion door as someone had originally designed. However, at this point we were starting to get short on storage space and it seemed a shame to lose that extra area that had been framed in for the foundation and water valve. Plus, I loathe accordion doors.

Then we ran into this picture we saw in a kid's decorating book we found on clearance at Barnes & Noble:

"The Kidspace Idea Book" by Wendy Adler Jordan, pg 127
That was the perfect idea for our DVD collection! Now that we have moved away from that house, I guess I better finally finish this post!

Solution

Given my limited carpentry skills, I decided that I didn't want to build the shelves myself. That way, I could leverage off an adjustable shelf system in case we decided to use the shelves for books or something other than DVDs. After determining how much room I had, I settled on the IKEA Billy bookshelf. It was cheap, relatively close to the dimensions I needed, and had all of the adjustability I wanted. However, (and this is a note to self as well), in the end, I think building the shelves myself would have been faster. Had the depth worked out as is, it would have been ideal. However, I had to do a lot of ripping to cut down on the depth of the bookshelf to get it to fit all the way into the wall. Not only that, because of the width of the shelf adjustment holes, I reached a point where I could not make the depth any smaller, so I had to router out channels in the trim to make up the remaining depth. More on that below.

Steps

So, here is the bill of materials that I started with. 

Pic Qty Description
1 IKEA White BILLY Bookcase (WxDxH: ~16"x11"x80")
2 IKEA White Extra Shelf for BILLY Bookcase
2 EverTrue Unfinished Whitewood Rosette Block
2 EverTrue Unfinished Whitewood Plinth Block
2 EverTrue Raw Whitewood Star Ornament
1 2-1-2'' Forstner Bit
2
1
1
Select Pine Softwood Board - 1x4x8'
Select Pine Softwood Board - 1x4x4'
Select Pine Softwood Board - 1x6x4'
1 Bosch 1/2-in Carbide Tipped Router Bit

After I bought the bookshelf, I penciled in my design so I would know what I was working towards.


I started by framing in where the bookshelf was going to mount.


Make sure you have plenty of room to access the shut-off valve!


Next I had to assemble the shelf and mount it into the frame I had just roughed for it.


Notice how I had to rip the edges off the front and back of the shelf frame to decrease the depth as much possible. I didn't dare get any closer to the shelf holes for fear they would break. After mounting the shelf, it ended up sticking out of the wall about 5/8", so I decided to find trim that was thick enough to router out channels to cover it up. Also note that I didn't want to take off the nice finish on the front of the shelves, so I only cut the back off the shelves (took the same off the back of the shelves as I did off the back of the frame--that way the holes still line up for the shelves). I was hoping it would look alright to have the shelves stick out a bit farther than the frame.


After securing the shelves, I patched the rest of the hole with Sheetrock and began the tedious task of mudding.


After finishing the sheetrock, I was ready to start with the trim. 


To cover the part of the shelf frame that was sticking out past the surface of the wall, I needed to router a channel 5/8" deep by 3/4" wide on the back of the trim. The router bit I had was only 1/2" wide, so I had to router 2 back-to-back channels, denoted by 1 and 2 below. 3, 4, and 5 marked the decorative grooves that I wanted to router in the front of the trim.


Since I found rosette blocks for the top corners of the shelf, I wanted to match it with rosettes in the plinth blocks at the bottom corners of the shelf. I found perfect matches for the rosettes and the drill size of the hole that the rosettes were recessed in (see parts list above). I thought it looked nice and was worth the effort!


Here is the finished trim around the bookshelf. Notice I had to buy wider trim for the bottom to match the height of the lowest shelf. By the way, I didn't really like how the shelves stuck out so sharply from the trim. So I cut the edges off the shelves at 45 degree angles and it looked much better! See subsequent pictures of the shelves and you'll notice the notches off the corners.


Now I was ready to prime. I think it was more trouble than it was worth, but I bought the kind of primer in aerosol cans. There is not much primer in those cans and that cost a lot more than it should have.


Before I could finish the paint, I had to put up new bead board and trim around the perimeter of the room. Then we were ready to paint!


A bit of paint and voila! Much better than an accordian door!


Perfect size shelves for DVDs and Blu-Rays.


And don't forget the reason for all the commotion. I used some of the wider left-over bottom trim to make the access door to the shut-off valve. It was a bit thick, so I had to have a friend plane it down some, then I did a decorative router around the edge. Much cheaper than cabinet doors. 


Let us know if you have any questions! All-in-all, a fun cabinetry exercise.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Home for the Holidays

The Syracuse house that we were planning on didn't work out. It was a bummer. First, because we had already began building dreams around that house. The girls had already planned out their rooms. I was strategically organizing the kitchen and craft room. Mike was plotting out the garage; Second, because we needed a place to live since Eli, whose house we were living in while we searched for ours, was coming home. He wasn't kicking us out, but we weren't sure how long it would take for us to get into a new place and we didn't want to trespass on a friend's generosity too long.


So we started looking again and we found this place out in West Point. It wasn't finished yet--when we first looked at it the carpet and cabinets weren't in, but we fell in love with it. (Was it a rebound? Probably. But it's a good rebound!)  We negotiated, and got under contract. Our realtor warned us that it might take up to 60 days to get in. So we moved to Mike's parents. They were wonderful. Someday I will be as wonderful as them.

We ended up living with Reid and Shirley for only a couple weeks. They were a couple of educational weeks though, in which we discovered that #1 and #2 were not going to room together. EVER. EVER. AGAIN. Something to do with incessant fighting all hours of the night and pouring water on pillows.  Despite this, and other fun events which may or may not have involved yelling and tempers lost and food everywhere, Reid and Shirley still love us.

Our house finished up fast and we were able to move in the first week in November. We love our new place! It's fantastic. Way better than that Syracuse house. :) And despite originally thinking we didn't know a soul out this way we have since discovered about 15 people that we attend church with that we are either related to (Mike has three cousins and an aunt and uncle out here), or know from high school, college, or other random life events.

We're home.

P.S. Remember those ridiculous nicknames I gave my children. I can't use them. They're too hard to remember. So, while I'm still not going to use names, I'm just going to refer to them as whatever fits the moment. Kind of like Mike with his younger brother Scott, also known as Lance, Nigel, Ryan or Links, etc.



Friday, September 27, 2013

Buying a House is like Dating

I was reading through my old DRAMA!ACTION!DRAMA! journals last Saturday, while I was supposed to be organizing my files and packing to move. It was so hilarious, I trucked it upstairs to read to Mike about when we first met. Keeping a journal is totally worth it, just so you can laugh maniacally at yourself and how wise and wonderful you were in your earlier years.

There was a lot of drama and angst in those journals about my dating years. And I swear selling and buying a house is just like being in the dating world. Except in the dating world, you don't get an agent. (Maybe people should consider getting agents while they date. Just to smooth the whole transaction. That would be a fun job. Or not.)

Here's how our "Dating the House of Our Dreams" is going. When we first started looking around there were tons of possibilities. So many houses to see! So many wonderful qualities in them-- beautiful kitchens, nice bathrooms, craft rooms, landscaped property, ginormous garages. So we had a great time going out.

Then we narrowed it down to what we really wanted in a house. And we started to get anxious. Maybe nothing like that existed! Our ideals were perhaps too high. We expected too much. And we were doomed to live destitute and despairing, in a rental forever. FOREVER.

We'd start to get serious with a house and then we'd find some horrible flaw--like a cramped laundry room, or a cabinet shop with toxic fumes in the backyard, or it was located on a busy road. And we'd start all over again.

Finally after much hand-wringing and over-analyzing (I never did that while dating. Never.), we decided on the house of our dreams (ok. It was the house closest to our dreams we could find. This is unlike how my dating ended. I totally found the man of my dreams.) We were so excited!

And now we're possibly in the heartbreak stage. They might not sell it to us, because it appraised far below its value. (I'm not sure how this particular aspect transfers over in my analogy. Maybe it's like your mom, or your best friend doesn't approve of your choice or something.)

I should probably hold the phone, dial it back a little and just wait. Because maybe it's like the time Mike told me on our second date that I was a "fun girl." (The previous death sentence of many a relationship.) Maybe it will still work out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Back-to-School Jig

I am almost staggering under the amount of free time around here these days. I get almost two hours a day of quiet time. TWO! HOURS! And did I say "free"? I meant child-free in the sense of "children are sleeping or pretending to sleep in their bedrooms." But let's be clear that these "free" hours are being used productively.  This productivity will probably return to unabashed wastefulness when the new Downton Abbey comes out, but until then I am doing laundry and packing boxes and other productive things.

This summer was an exercise in self-effacement. I am happy to report that it was much better than last summer. Not so much better that I cried heartily when my two oldest returned to school, but better enough that I felt a moment of wistfulness as #1 and #2 headed into the halls of learning. Thought process: "They are growing up?" Thoughtful, sad pause. "They are growing up!" Begin dancing.

Now that summer is over, I want to review what worked for us and what didn't so next summer I'll be crying hysterically when they return to school. (Because our summer together will just be that awesome.)

Our routines this summer were a good way to keep some semblance of normalcy and control and I think they contributed to our overall happiness. We did pretty well at sticking to them until our week-long vaction in mid-july and then we kind of just hung on until school started. Here's is what worked and what didn't work and why or why not.

In review, biking 100 miles did not happen. But we did make it 30! It just got too hot mid-July and we never got back into the swing of it. So maybe next year we'll have to try doing 50 miles all in June.

Also, I feel like it was a good call to only have one major chore and incorporate more cleanliness into our lives with the routines. For instance, having dinner clean-up be part of our routine instead of a "chore" worked well. We still don't always clean up after ourselves, but we're a little better.

The Pass of all Passes was a good thing, we used it almost weekly. We need one of those for activities up North. Honestly, will someone get on that please? The gas was killing me. Our pass is still good for June of next year, so we'll do it through June, but after that I'm not sure. 

Summer School did not occur as regularly as planned. We did make it through Road Dahl's "The BFG" and Betty Brock's "No Flying in the House" and then somehow we devolved into watching movies.  I think we'll have to be better about this next summer. I had the girls do a drawing book report of their favorite part of "The BFG" and put it in a special notebook and planned to do that for our other books, but that just didn't happen. I found a nice website about family theme days and would like to have Thursday Theme Days or something like that next year. I like this everyday theme idea too.

Hiring a babysitter in the mornings to exercise and grocery shop once a week was a fantastic thing I will do until I feel comfortable leaving the chilies to fend for themselves. I'm guessing that's in about two years, when my youngest can get her own cereal in the morning and my oldest is 10. Or maybe when my youngest has learned enough karate to defend herself from the often ill-intentioned advances of her sisters. I guess we'll see.

If I can find enough spare change I think I will hire a babysitter during the day so I can finally write a novel and become a rich and famous writer. :)

So now I've developed a whole new series of routines for school. They seem to be going pretty well so far. More about those some other time. I have to go gargle salt water. I have strep throat and my throat is on fire.