Monday, November 28, 2011

Because.... why not?

Four day weekends are so my friend. By the time Saturday rolls around, you mostly have your work done and you don't have to rush around like a usual Saturday because you've already had two days off. Four day weekends should happen more often, if you ask me.

Alas, no one really asks me, so they don't happen very often. Still, we did our best to make it good. Friday night, Luke's cousin spent the night. We were a little (okay, a LOT) unsure of how this would go, worrying that we'd end up driving her back to grandma's house at 3AM. Fortunately, she adapted and fit right into our little circus without so much as a sniffle or a homesick word at all. The kids had so, so much fun. Grandma came to get her Saturday morning, after a delicious breakfast of make your own crepes. After she left, we decided to show our support for Small Business Saturday by heading to one of our favorite local stores (Lifestyles). I love, love this store because they have the neatest things, plus even though it's a store filled to the brim with expensive breakables, they never, ever act terrified when you walk in with kids, instead they're super welcoming and even have a little play area set up for kids. How great is that? Anyway, Shane picked up a couple of presents and Luke and I picked out a bag of Jelly Belly's. On the way home, we drove past a miniature golf course. Luke and Tommy were both in awe of the giant dragon and Luke asked if we could go. My knee-jerk reaction was, of course, to say, "No, not today." Because it was almost Tommy's nap time. Because I had laundry to fold. Because I wanted to get home and put on my yoga pants.

But seriously, those are just reasons and none of them very good, so as we drove past, I turned to Shane and said, "Do you think that counts as a small business?" He said, "Do you see any cops before I do a u-turn?" We pulled in the parking lot and Luke said, "Wait. Where are we?" His excitement at realizing that yes, we WERE going to go mini golfing today was totally worth it.

We were the only people golfing on this Thanksgiving weekend.
Luke couldn't quite hold his club the right way and Tommy threw his ball every single time. We never had more than two putts on any hole because Tommy would helpfully collect and hand us all our balls back as soon as he could reach them.
They both attempted to climb the dragon.
And then because we were already there, we figured we might as well stay for pizza.
Of course, once you have pizza, you pretty much have to play a few games of skeeball.
We missed Tommy's nap time. He fell asleep in the car and counted those fifteen minutes as his nap. Unfortunately, this made folding all that laundry a little more complicated, but I got it done.
When I asked Luke if he had fun, he said, "Oh, a LOT of fun!" That right there is enough to convince me that every now and then, we need to say, "Yes. Today."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perfect Ten

This morning I left the house at 6:20. On a day that I didn't have to work. Dumb, right? But do you know what you missed if you were still in bed at 6:20? Well, you missed my angry seething rage at every house that I passed that was still dark and looked like it contained sleeping people (because of course, the tiniest person in my house thought 4 was a totally acceptable time to turn on his light and start playing with his trucks this morning oh, and EVERY MORNING THIS WEEK), but you also missed how the sky was this really cool dark grey and how over the next two hours, it slowly turned from dark grey to light grey with various shades in between.

I forgot how utterly quiet the world can be on a weekend morning before 7. I saw no one, aside from a group of guys in orange hats carrying guns into trucks. I hope they were hunters, otherwise I witnessed the forming of an early morning militia.

And then lost in the peace and quiet of it all, I ran this many miles...

Since I haven't begun my half-marathon training yet, I never really set out with an exact mileage in mind. I give myself a few different options, then just see how I feel. Today I felt great. At two miles, I thought, "Hmm... could I?" And I did. At 7 miles, I thought, "Just a 5k left!" Traffic was blissfully light this morning, so I managed to cross roads without having to stop, until I hit 8.5 miles. I lost my stride a little bit after that, but I still managed to finish at a sprint.

Today as I was running, I was thinking about how in gym class, I never even ran a mile (actually I was thinking about a lot of things, like how the Burger King sign was advertising cheese fries and how good that sounded or how warm my head was thanks to the magical Mizuno headband somehow turning my sweat into heat, magic, I tell you). In gym class, I walked a slow fifteen minute mile, running only when a gym teacher would glare at me. Part of that, I think, is that I don't remember them conditioning us, I just remember them being like, Okay, today we're running a mile. I never had a chance to prove to myself that I could run a mile, and I certainly never even let myself try, instead saying that I couldn't run. Plus I was intimidated by the boys who could run a five minute mile and man, gym class was DUMB. I do not miss that aspect of middle and high school at all.

But it's interesting how you can convince yourself of something for years and years, like that you can't run, and then one day, you decide to stop convincing and start doing and hey, imagine that. You can do it, after all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

in the quiet

Some of my favorite memories with my children are when they're sleeping. I don't mean that it's a favorite because they are actually quiet and not asking a million questions (although sometimes these moments are a blessing), but a favorite because when they are sleeping, I can just hold them close and be in the moment.

Like this moment... one of our first, as I held Luke close to me and he drifted into a heavy newborn sleep, his skin against mine.
(please ignore my double chin, thanks.)

Or this moment with Tommy, when the calm finally settled over us after his tumultuous birth.
(please notice my lack of a double chin, thanks.)

I remember just holding them, feeling their skin against mine, and marveling how they were mine. How did they come to be mine? How did I get so lucky to be matched with these babies who were so exquisitely, perfectly mine? I remember just holding them and not wanting to put them down, even when it was obvious that they were deeply asleep. I remember drifting off to sleep next to them and waking up before they did and just gazing at them, drinking them in.

Now that they're bigger, we don't have those quiet sleep moments as much. Especially since one of them doesn't really like to sleep. Or be quiet, for that matter. I still steal those moments when I can, though. When Shane has a late meeting, Luke gets to fall asleep in our bed while I put Tommy to sleep. Sometimes he's still awake when I come in and we cuddle until he drifts into sleep, his cold feet pressed into my belly.
I treasure those moments. It's hard to move him into his bed, because I just want to keep him next to me so warm and alive.

I don't rock Tommy to sleep at night, but on the weekends, I rock him to sleep for nap time. I miss him so much using the week that these moments are really nice. I just hold him for as long as I can.

These moments are just us and the world could stop spinning while we're in these moments, but I don't think I would notice. I don't think I would want to notice.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Write Run Think

I’ve felt the urge to write more lately. I’m not sure why. My students are working on essays currently. A day after I gave this assignment, my third hour class begged me to write the next essay with them. Not really with them, but they want me to write an essay response to the topic, too. They made a big deal and said that it had to be a good essay, and then they made me sign a contract promising that I’d do it. What they don’t know is that I love writing essays. I love the beauty of a good, quality attention grabber in the introduction and a solid thesis. I love tying outside references to literature and making a connection. Once I wrote a paper on Dracula and how he represents all parts of the human psyche, but especially the id—that part of us that wants only pleasure without caring about what it takes or about decency or morals. I was really proud of it. My professor wrote a note on the bottom that said, “You speak the truth… I’m a little jealous of Dracula, myself” and put a smiley face next to it. He gave me an A+. I miss that so much. My senior year of college, I took five English classes at once. At any given moment, I was working on an essay and I adored it. I had a post-it note on my computer with each essay and as I’d complete one, I’d cross it off and add a new one to the list. I managed a 4.0 that semester. No fluff classes, no field of studies unrelated to my major, just all 400 level English courses (I’m sure I had an education class in there, too). I miss it.

Last night I ran eight miles and when I run, I usually write essays in my head. It passes the time. I wish there was a brain to computer app where I could actually put these thoughts onto paper, because by the time I’m done they disappear.
It looked like this on most of my run, so my internal essay was about how weather sets the mood.

I was pelted by little balls of snow and ice. I stuck out my tongue and caught snowflakes and thought about how crazy it was to be running in it. I passed one man on a bicycle who was so bundled that I could hardly see his face, in stark contrast to my long-sleeved shirt and tights. I waved and he shouted, Keep it up! The next mile after that was the fastest mile of my run. Funny how an encouraging statement from a stranger can do that.

When I got to the sitter’s house to pick up the boys, Luke, Tommy, and the two other children there hid behind the couch. As I walked in, they all jumped out, yelling SURPRISE and came over and hugged me. I could write an entire essay about how sweet it was, but I’ll spare you. Their sitter asked if I saw the snow. I laughed and said I was running it. I told her how it started when I was four miles out and I was afraid it was going to start hailing. She said, Wait, how far are you running? I said, oh, I went eight miles today. She gasped and said, so you’re running running?! I’m not sure what she thought I was doing before this, but it made me laugh.

I could write an essay about the funny things people say to me in the course of a day, especially the days that I spent with 8th graders. Could I ever! I wonder how your thoughts form in your head? Are they haikus? Pictures? Or do you write in thesis statements and body paragraphs like me?

Monday, November 7, 2011

In Wonderland

"If I listened earlier, I wouldn't be here. But that's just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."

When I was little, Alice in Wonderland was my favorite Disney cartoon. I was never much for princesses, but Alice. I loved Alice in her pretty blue dress and her blonde hair and her confused, yet tenacious attitude in Wonderland as she chases the elusive white rabbit. As I grew older, it surprised me to find that everyone didn't love Alice as much as I did. That some people found it scary. Others found it weird. Even more wondered if the Disney producers were on acid (okay, we've all wondered that) at the time of production.

I still love Alice in Wonderland and as I grow ever older, it seems so much like the life we live is in wonderland. The number of times I've felt so very small or the number of times I've cried enough tears that it seems that surely there must be enough of them to fill an ocean. The days the beautiful flowers I once admired turned ugly and mean and made me feel like a weed and people's faces shifted into unrecognizable masks and they disappeared from my life. The growing pains between childhood and adulthood (and wondering why I'm 29 and still feel those growing pains somedays).

So maybe I love it because I identify with Alice and sometimes I spend days wondering if this is a dream or if this is real life. If I'm asleep on a river bank somewhere and just dreaming the hard days, if I'll awake in a start and walk off to afternoon tea shaking my head at the silliness of it all or if I really did fall down a rabbit hole and if I did, how do I get out?

Tonight I'm not Alice. I set out my clothes for work tomorrow. I won't be wearing a blue dress with a perfectly fashioned white apron; instead, a long grey skirt with a purple top and a black shirt to layer beneath because it's always so cold at work. I peeled a sucker off the carpet and no one was around to hear me wonder how it got there. I made the coffee for tomorrow morning. I took a long bath and fell into a good book instead of a rabbit hole and this isn't Wonderland, there is no caterpillar smoking a hookah to offer me sage advice, but tonight before bedtime, we galloped around and around and through the kitchen and living room each of us with a laughing, shrieking boy on our backs having our very own caucus race and it was more magical than any river bank dream could ever be.

linking with Heather of the EO's Just Write

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Will Run For Chocolate

Yesterday, my friend Sarah and I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k. Our day started bright and early (okay, it actually started dark and early, REALLY early). We ended up getting to Chicago before most of the race participants, but that was okay, because guess what? We were first to use the port-a-potties.
See how early it was? Also, I'm wearing 5000 layers and I was still SO COLD by the time the race started that it took me until almost the two mile mark before I could feel my toes. It's very disconcerting to feel your feet slap down on the pavement, but to feel only numbness in response. As I was waiting for the race to start, I kept questioning what sort of stupidity led me to willingly stand outside in the freezing cold.

Sarah ran the 15k and I only ran the 5k. Next year, I'm definitely going to do the 15k. While I felt that I could've done it this year, I also wanted to enjoy myself and my longest distance is still just eight miles. At any rate, I loved running throughout the streets of downtown Chicago. It was pretty cool to run right below the Sears Tower, look up, and watch it stretching into the blue sky.

My only frustration was the sheer amount of walkers who felt it necessary to line up in the 10-11 minute pace area. I have no problem with walkers or with people who might need to walk during a race, but I spent a lot of time dodging around people that it made it difficult to set a good pace. Overall, I finished in 32 minutes, which isn't bad considering the aforementioned dodging. However, the 5k race was apparently longer than 5k due to a reroute, so once they post the adjusted route, my pace might change. I did feel like I pushed myself every time I had an open stretch, so I'm pleased with that.

While I was waiting for Sarah to finish her 15k (she is very fast, so I didn't have to wait too long), I drank my complimentary hot chocolate and sat on the bricks in front of Buckingham Fountain. It was still cold, but I added an extra layer of pants and a headband and let the sun warm me. Mostly I just soaked up the view.
I've lived within an hour of Chicago my whole life, but I never fail to be a little awestruck by its beauty. I got home with just enough time to shower, change, and go meet my parents to celebrate Shane's birthday. I had the best morning running with Sarah and laughing over dumb things that we (mostly me) managed to do, and I had a great afternoon with my family.

Today Luke and I mostly haven't budged out of bed the whole day. I'm doing laundry while we snuggle beneath the covers. He's playing learning games on my phone and I'm playing a game on my laptop called, "Please Erin, stop trying to right click on your new MacBook and for the love of God, quit trying to use the Ctrl+C command to copy!" Tonight we are going to Shane's parents to celebrate his birthday. I am pretty tired from a long week and from getting up at 4AM two mornings in a row (thank you, time change. you suck.), so a low key day today is just what I needed.
I hope your Sunday brings peace as well!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Head Hurty

Today I missed school because of a migraine. This is dumb on so many levels. One, migraines are stupid. If you've never had one, pat yourself on the head and tell your body what a good soldier it is. If you have had one, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I would, hands down, much rather birth a baby than have a migraine.

My migraines have been so much more manageable since I've been seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis (shout out to Corrin for directing me to the best chiropractor ever), so having two in the past few weeks is not cool. Not cool at all and as soon as I find out why they're happening, I'm going to fix the problem. Even if that means cutting off my own head, because seriously, I can only imagine that decapitating myself would somehow be preferable to a migraine.

Anyway, it's also dumb because I really, really did not want to miss school today. Last year, I had a lot more migraines and missed a lot more school because of them. Aside from the intense pain caused, I didn't mind it so much because it meant a day away from my students. Yes, that's awful. I know, but I didn't enjoy my job very much last year.

This year, though. I couldn't believe it this morning when my first thought was, "But I can't miss! I really want to finish The Landlady with them. I can't miss out on their reaction when they find out what the landlady does." In spite of the fact that I felt like someone was jabbing an ice pick into my left temple, it was a good realization of how much more I love it this year. How my students this year asked how my Halloween was and wanted to know what my kids dressed as, while my students last year didn't so much as acknowledge anything like that, ever. Not even when I was gone for a whole week when Tommy started having seizures.

I hate to categorize students like that, because of course I had good students last year. There are always good students, just like there will always be kids who make me want to tear out my hair. But what a relief it is to feel differently this year, to really start to enjoy and embrace teaching again, because despite the headaches that 8th graders cause (and boy, do they), they can also make you laugh and on occasion, make you feel like you're doing your job right.

That said, universe, next time I have a happy realization, I'd like for it to NOT be caused by a migraine. Thanks.