Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Faire for the King! Huzzah!

We are gluttons for punishment. The state fair and the Renaissance Festival both in the same year.

Well, we never miss the state fair, so I guess any time we go to the Renaissance Festival we're going to hit both of them within a short timeframe.

"Have fun looking at the crazies!" a friend told me before we left.

And boy, there are some interesting characters there. And I don't mean the people working it.

But really, where else can a girl wear flowers in her hair and not have people think it's odd? Or a man, for that matter?

And camels, really, who doesn't love a good camel ride?

We love the "Goblets of Fire" stand, where you can watch artisans making beautiful glass objects. I have a new appreciation for the technical skills of knowing when the glass is hot enough, or just cool enough, and being able to shape it. Makes me understand why handmade objects fetch a high price (and if they don't, they should).

First thing on the list was the newest display, the mermaids.

Then off to find the wine stand. No really, we did. We sipped away at mugs of wine, feeling like we were getting away with something. The dust and sticks of hay that flew in every once in a while gave it a certain flavor.

Some kettle corn, a sucker, some games and, of course, the stocks.

"How can you tell a blonde's been using a computer? There's White-Out on the screen."
Festival goers can pay one of the characters to "arrest" someone in their party and put into the stocks, where they will be mocked and made fun of until the person admits guilt, sings and song and is let go.

You can imagine the jokes being told for this one, whose crime was being blonde. We had to sit a bit farther away so the girls couldn't catch every word, but we still got the gist of the jokes.

Wayne was lamenting the cold weather, as many festival-goers who usually show midriffs were covered up. But the paid characters were still in costume. 

Something for everyone!

"How YOU doin'?"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marissa's Special Talent

I have never been able to hula hoop. Even when I was a kid, I couldn't hula hoop, and now, as an adult, the only way I can hula hoop is by putting the hula hoop around my neck. Weird, I know, but that's all I can do.

Remember this toy?

You would put this boy around one ankle, swing it around and hop over it. It was the closest I could come to hula hooping, and I would skip over this yellow, plastic spinning thing up and down the sidewalk.

So I'm not sure where Marissa gets this talent. But here she is, showing off her mad hula hooping skills.

Ignore the distraction in the background, that's just me trying to keep Lindsey from jumping into the video...again.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Counts as Bullying?

When Lindsey came home from school feeling picked on and sad after her bike riding and name-calling day, I made the mistake of venting my own frustration about the incident on my Facebook wall. I didn't name the culprits and didn't blame the school, just said how sad I was that my daughter was so hurt.

Here's some of the feedback I heard (in fewer words than what was used):
  • Kids are cruel, bullying happens. Tell her to suck it up.
  • Soy Sauce is the tamest nickname I've heard, why does it even bother her?
  • That's too bad but there are worse things in life.
  • That's terrible and you need to get on that teacher.
  • Shame on those other kids' parents.
  • You should get those other kids in trouble.
I also found it interesting that some people jumped to the conclusion that the bullies were either boys or girls. I hadn't stated one way or the other, and can only assume that people jumped to those conclusions based on their own personal experiences.

The most telling comments were the ones in which people recounted their own experiences in being bullied. They could remember every word, every action like it was yesterday. For some of them the bullying had happened 40 years ago, but they still remembered the hurt that it caused. Those wounds stayed with them for a lifetime, to be recalled at a moment's notice.

Why would we think it's okay for that to continue on, generation after generation?

The parents of bullies, for the most part, would probably be appalled if they realized their children had reputations as bullies. I would be more upset if a teacher had to call me to tell me that Lindsey had been picking on other kids than on the other end of that equation.

The official district policy states that intimidation and teasing count as bullying. To me, bullying is any action that makes someone feel bad about him or herself. The fact that Lindsey was not looking forward to going to school the next day was the limit for me, because that impacts her education.

As a parent, it is my job to raise children who will become independent, confident, caring adults (add any other positive adjectives you like to that statement.) It is also my job to be their advocate, to fight for their rights where they are not able to advocate for themselves.

I asked Lindsey's permission before I contacted her teacher because I want to balance those two responsibilities. I don't ever want to be accused of being a "helicopter parent" but don't want to leave my child defenseless. If Lindsey had not given me permission I would have said nothing to her teacher and let her continue to try to deal with the situation on her own. I was relieved when she told me it was okay if I speak to her teacher, and the behavior was handled.

This situation made me realize how very tough parenting can be. I'd better start saving for my kids' therapy now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Happened to Lindsey, Part 2

If you missed it, you can read part 1 here.

I couldn't wait to pick Lindsey up after her first day of her bike-riding unit in gym. She had just learned how to ride her bike and was excited to show off her skills.

When I picked her up she looked mopey and kind of sad. I tried to ask how it had gone but she wouldn't say. It wasn't until we got into the car that she finally felt safe enough to burst into tears.

It was awful, she said. Everybody teased her for her tiny bike, and of course they all passed her up because her wheels were so small. Even her friends joined in the fun, not remembering that perhaps somebody's feelings were at stake. She had been so excited for the class and instead it turned into a taunt fest.

The other part that made it hard is that she had gotten a nickname at the beginning of the year that had come to a climax that day. The short story of that nickname is that a teacher had misspelled her name "Lindsoy" on one of the first days of school, and the kids started calling her Soy Sauce. When she first heard it even Lindsey giggled and thought it was kind of funny, but then it spread like wildfire. Kids were calling her Soy Sauce in class, in the hallways, at lunch and kids who didn't even know her started calling her Soy Sauce.

The same day of the biking incident the Soy Sauce nickname had reached a tipping point for Lindsey, and she had had it.

I felt so badly for her and wanted to hug her all night. It hung over the entire evening and was all she talked about. She didn't smile and she wasn't looking forward to going back to school the next day.

I finally got her permission to talk to her teacher about what had happened, and her teacher was amazing. She spoke to the class the very next morning about name calling without pointing out Lindsey's situation. One boy who was apparently an instigator of the nickname looked at Lindsey knowingly, but she just ignored him and turned away. We bought her an appropriately-sized bike which she took to immediately and couldn't wait (again) for the next gym class.

Her second biking outing was today and she did great. No one teased her for having a small bike, and the gym teacher reminded everybody that people go at their own pace and that it's not a race.

There's more that can be said about this, and I'll probably write a few follow up posts on the subject. It definitely got me thinking about the definition of bullying, how we accept it as a society (or choose not to) and where to draw the line as a parent in getting involved in our children's social upbringing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Happened to Lindsey Part 1

We love our children dearly and want to protect them as much as we can, while still letting them learn their own way, become their own people and develop their talents.

Lindsey had a challenging start to her 4th grade year.

On the first day of school we received a flyer home from the gym teacher informing us of a biking unit that they'll be having right away this fall. Children will be expected to bring or ride their bikes to school, and they will learn about biking safety and bike around the gorgeous lakes that are in our neighborhood.

Sounds like a dream gym class for any 4th grader. Except our 4th grader has yet to learn how to ride her bike.

When she read the flyer she burst into tears. I told her we could get a pass from the class since she couldn't ride, but then she said she didn't want a pass because she was embarrassed that her friends would find out that she couldn't ride her bike yet. She'd been embarrassed about it for a year or more which was part of the reason why she still hadn't learned how to ride. She refused to practice in our own neighborhood where her friends might see her. Any attempts we made to take her to a remote location like a parking lot was met with about 5 minutes of effort, 5 minutes of whining and 10 minutes of pouting. We gave up. She would just have to learn how to ride in her own time...whenever that would be. Apparently now was the time.

She decided that she would learn how to ride her bike in two weeks. And guess what -- she did. She confided in a friend of hers that she didn't yet know how to ride a bike, and her friend came over and showed her. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw her finally riding down the street. Wobbly, but riding. We tried to teach her for 2 years and her friend taught her in 5 minutes.

One problem was that she was still riding the bike we bought her when she was 4 or 5, and she is now 9. Because really, who would buy a child a bike that fit them when she hadn't learned to ride the smaller one she already had? She was still unsteady; I figured that a smaller bike would be better for her for a while, at least until she got more confidence. Wayne thought that we may want to get her a larger bike before her class, but I was concerned about her confidence on the larger bike, and said we should wait.

The day of the first biking outing Lindsey was excited. She couldn't wait to take her bike to school. She had learned how to use a bike lock and loved her helmet. I couldn't wait to pick her up from school to see how it had gone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NorthShore Inline Marathon

I've been busy. That's what happens when you prioritize fitness over non-fitness activities.

But this weekend was a big one, the NorthShore Inline Marathon, THE skating event for me. It's a full 26.2 marathon, along the same course of Grandma's marathon, from Two Harbors to Duluth, MN, with a view of Lake Superior for much of the race.

Last year was my first time skating it, and I completed in 1:58, beating the time I thought I would get by a good 20 minutes. I met a lot of good people, learned a lot about skating, equipment and the efficiency of drafting.

Conditions were ideal this year. Last year it was 29 degrees at the start and only warmed to 45 degrees by the finish. I had to buy lined tights at the expo the night before because I knew I would freeze if I wasn't properly dressed for the weather. It took a long time for muscles to warm up to get up to speed.

This year it was a nice 50-something degrees at the start and 65 at the end, with very little wind. I wasn't cold, and I never felt hot. It was perfect.

I had hoped to skate with a friend I had made at the Minnesota Half marathon a month ago, but she was put into a different wave than I and would be starting about 4 minutes ahead of me. We were very similarly paced and had drafted well previously, but it wasn't meant to be this year.

Despite not having anyone to start out with, I was amazed at the community and camaraderie that exists between skaters. Around mile 3 two women who were drafting skated past and asked, "Would you like to join us?" Why sure! I'll happily draft with a group.

They passed a few more skaters and asked, "Would you like to join us?" and pretty soon we had a drafting line of between 12 and 15 skaters, men and women alike, but women were always in the lead. (Girl power!)

One woman led the line for about 4 miles, keeping a consistent speed up the hills and flying down the hills. Those of us in the drafting line kept encouraging her -- "You're keeping a great pace! Keep it up!"  Finally she was tired and fell back, to have someone else take the lead. I took the lead for about 3 miles or so, and it was a blast. Everyone was incredibly encouraging and very smart. No one took unnecessary risks and if they were speeding along too quickly they would pull out of line rather than risk falling and taking down the rest of the drafting line with them.

I stayed with this group from mile 3 to about mile 21, when I caught up to my friend who'd been in the wave ahead of me. Then she joined our group (or we joined hers, depending on your point of view), and we finished close to each other.

I completed the marathon in 1:35:08, or about 23 minutes faster than my time last year. Hmmm...maybe if I set my goal for 1:35 next year, I'll beat it again by 20 minutes? That seems to be the pattern.

Photo near the finish.
More than anything, I had an absolute ball. It was over far too soon.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fitness Challenge: The Final Week

My fitness challenge has officially come to an end. In the past 60 days I completed 41 workouts and skated 176 miles. I lost a total of 4 pounds -- not as much as I had hoped, but the good news is that I lost one and a half inches off my waist and an inch from my hips. I have actual definition in my limbs and these weird bumps on my arms that I've been informed are called triceps.

More importantly, I feel good. I have more energy and have a fitness option that doesn't depend on the weather. (Very important as a resident of Minnesota!)

My whole fitness level has stepped up. Previously if I didn't get a single workout in during the week I felt sluggish and could tell I was missing my workouts. Now if I miss a couple days in a row I feel like I need to get moving. I've met new people, tried things I've never done before, and had soreness in muscles I didn't even know existed.

Though the challenge is over this isn't the end of my fitness journey. I will continue to drink my protein shake lunches -- they have been a great replacement for the "frozen box of crap" as my co-workers and I call frozen entrees.

I haven't yet taken my "after" picture, but thought I'd share with you what my after picture would have looked like had I done this challenge in the 80's.

Thanks for reading along!