Saturday, June 30, 2012

Me...Age Gracefully?

I recently had my annual exam, you know, that special exam women look forward to every year. That one.

While I was waiting for my doctor there was a computer playing small videos about women's health, and a video came up about the effects of menopause on women's bodies.

Reduced bone mass. Hair loss. Headaches and hot flashes. And what they described as the "inevitable" build-up of fat in the abdominal area.

That word, "inevitable." Sounds like a challenge to me.

I thought to myself, "You wanna bet?" 

Yet as I've grown older I've noticed that my metabolism isn't what it used to be, even though my activity level is higher than when I was in my 20's. I've creeped up in clothing sizes over the years, and am near the point where my current size is getting a bit too snug.

When I completed the women's mud run a few weekends ago my legs didn't feel it but my shoulders and arms ached for days afterwards. I realized I have no upper body strength -- and why should I? All my sports revolve around running or skating.

So when my friend Gianna invited a group of her friends to a 60-day fitness challenge, I didn't have to think twice.

Beginning July 1 (that's tomorrow) I am starting the Beachbody workout challenge called "Insanity: Asylum," There are 13 of us in total taking this fitness challenge, encouraging each other to push ourselves to the next level, no matter what that level is. Practically everyone in the group is doing something completely different. Some are making diet changes while others aren't. But we are going to  hold each other accountable and see what we can do to improve our overall fitness.

So I am sharing here one of the photos from my "before" photo series. Hopefully I'll be seeing some improvements in the next 60 days that I'll be sharing with you. 

Some women want to age gracefully, but I plan to fight it every step of the way. Not with botox and cosmetic surgery, but with increasing distance runs, inline marathons, squats and push-ups. I will not go quietly into that good night, thank you very much. 

Stay tuned for an update in about 30 days!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rewind to Father's Day

This year we had probably the most unusual Father's Day of any since Wayne became a dad. We were all supposed to be in Tracy, celebrating my father-in-law's birthday and Father's Day, but Lindsey and I ended up staying back in Minneapolis while Wayne and Marissa traveled to Tracy for the coveted visit. (How that came to be is a blog post for another day.)

Lindsey and I got to spend some special time together, and Sunday she wanted to surprise her dad with a special Father's Day party. We literally spent almost the entire day planning. She pulled out her idea book and decided that she wanted to make it a pillow and pop party. We decided that "pop" could mean soda pop that you drink or the popping sound that balloons make when they burst. So we walked down to Walgreens, bought some individual soda (or "pop" depending on where you're from) for all the family members, and some balloons. Lindsey made a sign, we filled balloons, and made every seat comfy with pillows from our beds.

Wayne and Marissa arrived back home around 7:30 at night, and then the festivities began, including a dessert of fudge brownies that Lindsey and I had made the day before. Not to mention some special beverages to go with Wayne's pop.
Wayne checks out Lindsey's sign.
Balloon fight!!

The evening was topped off with a balloon fight, and homemade presents from the girls. It was a special end to the day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Showing Support for Pride

As I stated in an earlier post, I participated in Pride this past weekend, to show my support for the LGBT community in working to defeat the marriage amendment that is being brought to Minnesotans this November.

Some of you knew that I was doing more than just showing up and cheering on the parade, I was dancing!

I took part in a flash mob that occurred about half an hour before the parade was set to begin. This was coordinated with the Twin Cities Pride organizers -- since the street was already closed off and there was a sound system in the area, they had given us the green light. Which makes the cop car clearing the street in the middle of the dance all the more frustrating. But regardless, we danced through the interruption and had an awesome time.

Lindsey and I then stayed for the parade, which was one of the longest parades I've ever stood through. Yes, we didn't find seats, we stood the entire 2 1/2 hours. We did manage to get under shade, though, and Lindsey was the only child in about a half a block, so all the candy, treats and goodies were tossed her way, with no competition to retrieve them. She came away with quite a loot!

The Saloon float was accompanied by confetti tossed from the roof of their building.
 It was great to see all the floats and supporters. Many significant corporations including General Mills, Target, Best Buy, Macy's and others, not to mention just about every DFL candidate around. I shook the hand or got a high-five from Chris Coleman, St. Paul City mayor, R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis city mayor, Keith Ellison, District 5 representative in the US House of Representatives, Al Franken, US senator, and just missed shaking the hand of Amy Klobuchar, US senator. Obama had quite a presence as well, though he wasn't there in person. Not unless you count the cardboard cut-out, of course.

Loads of churches, and some interesting ones this year. There were the expected episcopal churches and unitarian churches who have welcomed gays for years. And then were was the Catholics for Marriage Equality group, just ahead of "J Pride," Jews who support gay rights, followed by the Mormon church.

I almost took some photos but decided to spend my time enjoying the parade, not wrestling others for a decent view. So instead I'll quote some of the best signs I saw:
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.   -- Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor, author and humanitarian.

Sorry we're late -- held up by Mormon church parade participant
Closets are for CLOTHES. Lots, and lots of fabulous clothes. -- held by a gay rights supporter
The message is lost a bit without the visuals, but you get the idea.

After the parade was over Lindsey and I stayed downtown to get lunch and avoid the press of the crowd heading out. We got a table right away at Rock Bottom Brewery, enjoyed a relaxing lunch and then took a pedicab to get back to the car, which I had conveniently parked behind a green dumpster along one of the streets neighboring Loring Park (there are three of them), even though I didn't remember the name of the street I parked on. Well planned. Our cabbie was awesome, he stopped several times and got directions on where the green dumpster was and dropped us off right at the car. He earned himself a super nice tip, especially for winning the race to the top of a hill against another pedicab driver who also had a fare.

Not us, but for those who don't know what a pedicab is.

We had a great time and Lindsey got to see how many people support families of all walks of life. I'll plan to be back again in 2013, hopefully to celebrate the defeat of the marriage amendment.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sorry I'm Late to the Party

This weekend I am going to be at the Twin Cities Pride parade, showing my support for a group called Minnesotans United for All Families, who is fighting the marriage amendment that Minnesotans will be voting on this November. This amendment strictly defines marriage as existing between a man and a woman and makes it legally prohibitive to allow same-sex marriages.
I was telling some of my family what I will be doing this weekend and was surprised by their reaction, which was "I didn't know you were gay!" While said in jest, it said a lot about why gay rights haven't moved much in this country until recently.

I suspect that very sentiment is why so many straights have chosen not to support gay rights, at least publicly. "Gay" isn't something that is for the most part physically obvious, unlike race or gender. For many of us, fear of being classified with homosexuals kept us from standing up for their rights.

Yet if you look back in history, every time a group that had been discriminated against moved forward in their struggle for equality, it was because of the work of people outside of that group. There was not a single black person in Congress when slavery was abolished in 1865, not a single woman in a seat of power when women got the right to vote in 1920. And the civil rights movement of the 1960s could not have made the progress that it made without the support of whites who put their lives in danger to stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens.

I hadn't really thought about the impact of gays being denied the ability to marry until I heard stories from a good friend who is gay. She and her partner are incredibly committed to each other, as much if not moreso than any heterosexual couple. They own a house and have a child together, all of which has to be done at considerable legal expense to protect their rights.

I took for granted until talking to them the legal rights that I'm afforded in the home purchases my husband and I have made over the years. Buying a house as a married couple is easy -- our earning power and credit scores are pooled together and we own the home together. As a gay couple, they have to produce legal documents binding them financially in the purchase of the home and defining joint ownership. If they haven't already, they will have to take on the expense of having my friend adopt her own daughter, because she is biologically her partner's and not hers. If one of them were to die unexpectedly, the other would have no benefits as a surviving spouse. And don't even get me started on custodial rights of their daughter in that situation.

I suspect that lawyers LOVE same-sex couples and are voting for the marriage amendment -- it'll keep them in business.

I have looked on in frustration as state after state passed these marriage amendments, wishing there was something I could do to help. Now that the issue is being brought to the table in Minnesota, I am ready to stand up for my fellow citizens' rights.

I'm sorry I didn't speak up earlier or make my opinions more well known to support the LGBT community. Minnesotans United organizers encourage supporters to tell others that they support it -- once someone shares that they do, others will finally open up that they are also in agreement. I have a little bit bigger soapbox than others through this blog, so I am making my opinions known.

Sorry I'm late to the party. But I'm here now, so let's rock and roll.

Vote NO in NOvember.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Some People Have a Twisted Idea of Fun

I'm not sure why, but I thought a mud run sounded like a lot of "fun" and I convinced a friend to try one with me.

We drove an hour out of town to the farm where the mud run was being held, only to pull up next to two vehicles full of Lake Harriet moms we knew, who also had this same twisted idea of fun. They, however, had coordinated matching outfits and were 11 people strong. And of course, they had two extra outfits along with matching headbands, just in case they ran into other people who wanted to join their team.

Sure, because you may just run into parents from your children's school an hour out of town at a mud run. We threw the shirts on and joined the team!
The "Muddy Bunch," pre-race.
The organizers of the Lozilu (pronounced LOW-zee-loo) run bills itself as a mud run for women of any fitness level. According to their website, if you could walk a 5k you could complete the course, though the obstacles would be challenging. One of our group was at that level, having never run and only trained by doing a 1-mile walk earlier in the week. Others of our group, like my friend, Gianna, were fitness buffs, and one of our team members teaches tabata, a form of Japanese fitness that I learned about from her.

We decided at the beginning that we would start together and finish together, and we did.

Each obstacle had some silly name geared for women -- the 8-foot high fence below was called "Tan Lines," the swampy mud pit was called "Hot Mess," etc. Most had various levels, from 8-foot to 6-foot to 4-foot high walls for climbing, for every level.

At the "Tan Lines" obstacle.

I couldn't go over the wall that you see me hanging off of in this photo; I ended up walking around. I just couldn't bring myself to swing my leg over at the top of the wall, even though it was as easy to climb down as up.

And the mud pools were, well, muddy. But not just muddy. After all, this is a working farm that some farmer allowed the organization to use for this event. The soil had decades of natural fertilizer (or "organics") sprayed and plowed into the ground. So let's just say it smelled like putting your face into a cowpie. And the mud got into everything. Ugh.
My best and worst moment.
This was the final obstacle of the run, the "Fish Nets," or a cargo net that went 15 feet up into the air. Yes, it's at an angle, but if you don't like stepping onto a ladder from the roof, you wouldn't like this. That's me at the far left on the very top, and my friend Gianna is talking me through where to put my feet and hands to make it over. It was the only high obstacle of the run that I didn't chicken out on. Everything else that involved climbing I either went around or took the easiest option. I was shaky and scared, but proud as hell that I made it over.
"Do I have dirt under my fingernails? Wanna look?"

It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to run, crawl, climb and slide through this 5k. It was truly a ball, and I got to know a great bunch of ladies, most of whom I was meeting for the first time that morning.

It met my expectations of fun.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bye Bye Big Kitchen

With one birthday behind us and one coming up, it is time for this family to purge our home of the toys and trappings of small children, to make way for the collection needed for a 7 and 9 year old.

And that means that it's finally time to say good-bye to Big Kitchen.

Big Kitchen first joined our family at Christmas in 2005. We shopped around, we considered which elements of a kitchen our then two-year-old would find most fun, and finally we put in our order to Santa Claus as to which one would be perfect for our family.

Santa didn't have time to have his elves put Big Kitchen together, so it came in a large, heavier-than-you'd-expect box, with more pieces than you ever thought imaginable.

It took us 3 hours to put Big Kitchen together on Christmas Eve. I should say, it took Wayne 3 hours, I helped with the little stuff, like taking the pots and pans out of their plastic bags and putting stickers in all the right places, while keeping us both supplied in wine to make it through the ordeal.

Sure enough, Big Kitchen became a big hit, first with the two-year-old, who we couldn't peel away from it long enough to open other gifts that morning, to the then 6-month-old who grew into it.

(Can I tell you how annoyed I am with Blogger that doesn't "get" vertical photos?)
The children grew and grew, but Big Kitchen was always a part of the fun. From playdates to birthday parties at our home, visitors gravitated to the kitchen. It became an integral part of our family restaurant nights, when the girls would make up a menu, pretend to prepare us food and "feed us" for an hour or more, all kinds of meal concoctions you would never encounter in real life. I've been known to pretend to gnaw on a drumstick, accompanied by a single banana, a half an onion and a small doughnut. All finished off with a bottle of beer. (Those bottles have always been pretend beer, not soda -- I don't know why.)

But soon Big Kitchen began to get ignored, and to become a place to set other toys that got played with more often. If we ever cleaned it off it was a favorite again for a little while, but eventually fell back into neglect.

Finally it was relegated to a place in our porch, where it was difficult to reach to play with it properly, and no one asked to have it pulled back out to play with it again.

That was our signal that it was time to retire Big Kitchen.

And so we began asking around if anyone needed a Big Kitchen for their growing family and we got a nibble. This family lives very close to us, and the little boy's older sister is a classmate of Lindsey's. We knew Big Kitchen would be well cared for and played with by this family.

And so one Saturday Big Kitchen got pulled out one last time and the girls helped me clean it up. We culled through drawers and drawers of toys searching for all the kitchen-related items and put them into a bag. And before we could traipse it over to the new family's house, the girls enjoyed one last session of restaurant.

As a family we walked the Big Kitchen to its new home down the street (yes, the girls walked there in pajamas, I don't really care). And we watched a small little boy who had to reach over his head to get to the microwave begin to play.

The family was kind enough to send a thank you note from them all, with an invitation to come visit Big Kitchen any time.

I suspect we'll be doing that.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

School Year Rumination

My what changes a year can bring!

It was such a joy to watch Marissa come into her own this year. As a kindergartner last year her friends were Lindsey's friends, and she didn't have many friends her own age. But now that they've spent a year in different buildings, Marissa has lots of friends whose names we hear frequently, and who we are asked often for play dates and sleepovers. She is such a joyful little girl, quick to smile and to hug.

It's hard to believe she struggled so hard to read at the beginning of the year. She and I found some books in her room from nine short months ago and she tossed them aside with her baby books, stating that they were "too easy." And they are.

If asked she'll tell you her favorite subject is math. She has an unusual way of forming some of her letters and numbers, and I don't see a reason to correct her since they are perfectly legible. I like that she has found her own unique method of making the number "6."

She goes all the way across the monkey bars now, over and over apparently, as evidenced by the rows of calluses on her palms. She arrives home with knees and ankles black with sand and dirt, and her shoes contain the Sahara Desert. I take all those as signs of a fun day at school.

I have heard that in 3rd grade children transition from learning to read to reading to learn, and that couldn't be more true of Lindsey. She's always been a strong reader, so from the very beginning of the year she dove into learning. I love her curiosity and her fascination with the world. She'll tell you her favorite subjects are reading and writing first, followed by science, followed by math. She is amazed by science and the natural world, and would come home throughout the year and tell me excitedly about what they had discovered that day.

Lindsey's friendships are important to her -- an argument with a friend will shadow her entire day and be the first thing she tells me about when I pick her up. She's entering that age when girls tend to take sides with each other and switch best friends on an hourly basis. My only advice to her is to stay true to herself and just be the good friend that she naturally is -- friends who enjoy her company will remain by her side.

And oh dear, the boys. She has determined that a certain boy in her class must like her because he throws paper at her when the teacher's not looking, or if she goes to sharpen her pencil she'll find him watching her. He calls her a silly nickname that they all laugh at, and surely that must mean he likes her.

I guess she likes boys.

This post isn't really here to tell a story, but to capture a snapshot of the school year that was, and to let my girls know how very proud I am of them.

I'm a lucky mom.