Friday, November 30, 2012

Epilepsy Awareness Month

This post has been sitting in my drafts all month. Call it writer's block, call it heart block. I'm not sure why. I wanted to write this post, I really did. I wanted to write it in November because November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. I've written about epilepsy before. Two years ago in November when Tommy was recently diagnosed. More recently in April when we were fundraising for Tommy's Team and so many of you graciously gave to us.

I wanted to write again, though, because this cause is important to us, because so many people do still reach out to me with questions about epilepsy and seizures and about area doctors. Instead I stared at this draft for a month and here it is, the last day of November and I don't know what to say.

I want to tell you that if you've come here because your child has seizures or because your child was just diagnosed with epilepsy, stay strong. There is hope. If you've had to see your child go through tests, it's painful. It's unfair. You wish you could take the tests for them, as you pray that the results are normal. Or that if they're abnormal, they at least give you answers. What a strange thing to pray for.

This may sometimes be the face of epilepsy, as the parents of epileptics see it.

Brave. Making a tough guy face at the camera, with a head full of electrodes and bandages. You feel like he is braver than you because you couldn't imagine being so brave at three, let alone now.

This is also the face of epilepsy. A healthy, sweet boy. Introspective. Not smiling for the camera because he was D-O-N-E with the photo session at that point, but still letting his mama hold him close.

He hasn't had a seizure for over a year now. I didn't think I'd ever be able to say that. I'm so happy, but I'm also so scared. I'm scared because he lived 15 months of his life without ever having a seizure and then one day, he just had one. Just like that. This is what epilepsy is. I know this. And so, I move forward with the realization that he could have one tomorrow. With each day that passes, I sometimes forget. I forget that he has epilepsy and then, I remember. When he's quiet in the next room a little too long. When he moves in a strange way. When he trips over nothing. Then my breath catches and I wonder if that's the moment that my heart is going to shatter.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm hopeful, I am. I am so hopeful. He's never had any abnormal test results. We have no indications that he won't outgrow this. I've just learned to be distrustful of this disease and it's hard to shake that, but I still carry this hope with me, in a tiny little corner of my heart.

I guess I didn't really teach you anything about epilepsy, except this: my little boy is so brave. Whether he has more seizures or never has another again, I will always treasure his bravery through this journey. I never imagined this as a parent. I never could've imagined this as a parent. It's not something that you sign up for or something that you ever worry about when you're pregnant or when you're holding your new baby in your arms, and trust me, I had plenty of worries, but here I am. Here we are. What I know is this... whatever happens, epilepsy hasn't beaten us yet--and it never will.

2nd photo credit goes to Donya

Friday, November 23, 2012

Valparaiso Turkey Trot 2012

This race report could alternately be titled: reasons why I won't be running this one again. The size, the traffic, and oh yeah, the 3.25 mile 5k.

I ran this race last year. While it was big at 2000 participants, it was manageable. Since last year, it's grown by a thousand people. This increased the people on the route, the people trying to park. It was a nightmare. I waited for 20 minutes to get into the parking lot, though I had a feeling that it might be crazy and left myself plenty of time to park. Unfortunately, I ended up in a back overflow parking lot, which would prove to be a pain when I was leaving.

Still, I parked and headed inside, where I spotted a coworker. We headed outside the 5k corral and tried to get a little closer to the front, but we still ended up behind a lot of walkers. I love walkers at 5ks. I think they should be at 5ks. 5ks should be a family event, especially a 5k on Thanksgiving. But when I'm trying to start out at a 9 minute mile, there's nothing more awful than trying to dodge a line of walkers ten across. Still, I'm not faulting the walkers because there was absolutely no instructions given to walkers to line up near the back of the race corral. This would be the fault of the race organizer and that is frustrating. The race started in a parking lot and took us over a speed bump, which was a fun obstacle along with dodging people left and right. Still, I managed to get around as many people and kids as I could to get out onto the road where it opened up a bit. Because this was an out and back course, they had cones set up in the middle of the road and were shouting at everyone to stay to the right (the road was closed, so I guess they were thinking the fastest 5k runners would be making their way back soon?). With a couple of thousand 5k participants, the bottleneck created by this was ridiculous. Myself and one other guy who seemed intent on moving and really getting around people attempted to stay to the center. This was working until a small child abruptly stopped in front of me and I dodged left to avoid her, not seeing an orange cone directly in front of me. Luckily I spotted and somehow managed to function well enough to leap over the orange cone, but imagine if I'd tripped? At this point, I was frustrated. After the first turn, the course started to thin out a little bit, especially when people dropped off at the water stop. Despite the cones and the crowds, I still finished the first mile in 9:04.

After mile 1, I pushed myself faster. I knew I could do it. Although I've never actually raced a 5k before, I felt like I was racing this one. I was passing more people than getting passed. I had my head down and was focusing just on running and breathing and although I wanted to slow down, I looked at my watch at 1.6 and reminded myself that I was halfway done. My Garmin beeped at the exact moment that the guy was yelling out mile 2 splits. I ran mile 2 in 8:41. I really wanted to slow down, but I knew I only had a mile left. There was a hill where people started to slow down or even walk, but I kept pushing past them. Toward the end, there was a girl who I was racing and I'm pretty sure she was racing me. As I really started to hurt and rounded the last corner, I heard a coworker yell my name and cheer me on... that was a huge boost! I wasn't expecting to see anyone I knew on the course, but she was there for her husband (who came in 5th in the 5k, finishing in 17 minutes--ridiculous!) and was back on the course. I knew that I was on the last straightaway and it registered slightly in my brain that it seemed like the finish line was longer away, but I also thought it was my brain playing that, "You will never get there" trick on me. I glanced at my watch and saw that I was still maintaining my pace and would finish in the high 26s or low 27s, which would be an awesome PR. I pushed through, still racing the same girl. My watch beeped mile 3 in 8:44. The finish line was still around the corner. Through the haze of burning lungs, I knew this wasn't right but still kept pushing. I watched the numbers I thought I would have fly by and finally crossed the finish line at 28:39 (I didn't stop my watch immediately because I never want finish line photos of me pressing buttons on my watch--what I'm vain?). What?! That's my 5k time when I run consistent, comfortable laps around my neighborhood, not when I push myself to the point of a stitch in my side, feeling like I'm going to puke as I cross the finish line. Then I looked at the distance and not the time on my watch and saw this.
I was disappointed, confused, but still hopeful that I'd misread it or screwed something up, until I ran into coworkers afterward who immediately commented that their phones measured the course long and they were frustrated because they'd trained for a 24 minute PR but missed it by 2 minutes due to the added length. Or rather, they'd actually gotten their PR, yet it wouldn't be registered because of the extra length.

I texted Sarah who ran the 10k, but her son ran the 5k. She said they were trying to figure out his time because it was a time he could run any day without really trying, until they got home and he registered the distance with Map My Run... and came out with 3.3 miles. I was still holding out hope until the official results were posted, but they have me finishing in 28:36 with an average page of 9:15. I know Garmin and official times can be off slightly, but not like this. There is no way they are that off. First of all, every single mile I ran was less than 9:15. I can tell you that simply based on how I felt, Garmin data notwithstanding. I ran this race HARD, harder than I've ever run a 5k. An average pace of 9:15 is what I can run while doing laps around my neighborhood in the morning. Officially, those results still show a PR of over a minute, but I'm pretty sure I hit 3.1 somewhere around 27:20, which means that I really PRd by over 2 minutes and do you know how much I'd love to have THOSE results showing right now? The results of the actual race that I ran? The good news, I guess, is that my ranking in my age group is 17/184, which is pretty high up. But still! I want my sub-9 minute average pace listed because I worked HARD for that pace.

Leaving the parking lot was a nightmare. I sat for, literally, 45 minutes in the back parking lot where there was an absolute gridlock. I'm not sure if the person at the front of the line wouldn't shove their way out or if cars just wouldn't let them out, but I didn't move. I watched the rest of the lot empty out while we could not move. Other cars left from the big lot while we SAT there. By the time we finally got out, the big lot was mostly empty. 45 minutes. Do you know how absurd that was? Why wasn't someone helping the flow of traffic? By the time I got home, I had 15 minutes to shower and change before heading to Thanksgiving dinner.

What I would like to do is find a 5k soon and get my official results (although of course, I'm nervous that this was a one off where there was good, mild weather and no wind and I'll be robbed of it), but all I can find are untimed Santa fun runs. I'm trying to be happy with the fact that yes, it's a still a PR, but it's not the correct result and it's not my actual time and it's hard to be happy with not getting credit for what you did.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The [surprising] 2013 Chevy Malibu

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a contact at GM inviting my family to be a part of the Magnificient Mile lights festival. Chevrolet is the official vehicle of the Lights fest, meaning that all the parade floats and people in the parade are carried by Chevy vehicles. Pretty cool! Unfortunately, because this weekend was my dad's 70th birthday, we weren't able to stick around to be a part of the parade (please invite us back next year!), but we were happy to attend a breakfast with Disney characters... more on that soon. We were also generously offered the chance to try out another car this week, as I'm still driving my Focus for another month or so (one more payment!).

When I received the email that we would be provided with a 2013 Chevy Malibu, I will admit that I didn't know what to expect. I haven't had a lot of experience with the Malibu and my thoughts were that this was what you got when you went to a car rental place and asked for a mid size sedan.
Imagine my surprise, then, when this pulled into my driveway last Monday.

All of my notions about the Malibu were completely wrong. Yes, it is definitely a mid sized sedan, but while it is functional, it is also fun--just look at the exterior--I would be happy driving something that gorgeous around every day! It's functional in that this is the type of car that I could see being a perfect fit as a secondary vehicle for a family of four (or primary, even) because the interior is spacious. And the trunk? The trunk space made me swoon. Among many other annoying qualities, my Focus lacks trunk space. Traveling with it means that we end up packing items around the boys' feet, so when I opened up the trunk of the Malibu and saw all this space, I knew that if we were in the market for a four door, this was absolutely the type of vehicle I'd choose.
Do you see how there is space and then more space? Space for suitcases, space for toys, blankets, pillows. The little extra cubby of space made me so happy. This is where the functionality comes in because I feel like you could easily fit in everything with a long trip, without having to use the interior of the car for storage.
It also has a five star NHTSA safety rating. Not only does it have the space to travel with your family, but it will get you to your destination safely.
In terms of interior space, the back seat is pretty roomy, too. Luke and Tommy are still in the large Britax five point harness seats which take up a great deal of space (and which were easy to install, thanks to the Malibu having the latch system), but there was enough space in between where they weren't right on top of each other and where a smaller person could ride if we needed to put another person in the back seat. It wouldn't be a comfortable ride, but it would definitely work.

The interior of the car is gorgeous, too. The LTZ had a really sharp interior that again, this was not the mid size sedan that I was imagining.
Isn't that gorgeous? The 2013 Malibu can also come with The Chevrolet MyLink option, which allows you to integrate your car with your smart phone. As an iPhone junky, I love the thought of being able to control my car from my phone.

The best testimony to the Malibu came from my dad. For the last few years, my dad has been a fan of VWs; however, he was disappointed by some of the changes they made in the 2012 model. He felt that they cut down in the roominess and took some of the sharpness out of the interior. After checking out the Malibu, he said that he was going to have to think long and hard about remaining with VW when it comes to his next trade-in because he felt like Chevy picked up where VW disappointed him.

Although we're currently in the market for something bigger, I know that down the road, we will be looking for a smaller secondary car. At this point, I know that the Chevy Malibu will be the first place we look!

And if you ask the boys where was the best place the Malibu took us last week? They'll tell you it was to downtown Chicago where we got to breakfast with these guys.
My boys were in heaven. Tommy was a little scared when he got close to the characters, but he was excited from far away. Luke, on the other hand, had a big grin the entire time. The breakfast was delicious, too! We felt spoiled and loved having a chance to drive the Malibu into the city (it got great highway gas mileage--in the 30s) to such an amazing event.

Although we were provided with the car loan and invited to breakfast with Disney characters, all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Valpo 13.1 Half Marathon

12 weeks ago, I started the hardest training plan I've ever followed: the Own It plan from Train Like a Mother. This training plan has led me through two 13 mile runs, one 14 mile run and one 15 mile run. It made me more than ready to tackle a half marathon because it took the element of fear out of the half marathon distance because by race day, I'd already ran it four times. Unlike my last half marathon, I wasn't stressed at all about the distance.

What this run couldn't do, however, was control the weather. While we had warmer than usual weather for November, we had wind. Lots of it. The wind was blowing steady at 25-30mph with gusts up to 50mph. In a race through a town or a forested area, this might not have mattered, but this race was run on country roads. Now, I love country roads. They're peaceful. I grew up in the country. I love open fields and farms and gently rolling hills, but in the right (or in the case of a half marathon, WRONG) conditions, those open fields create wind tunnels. And they did just that. I knew I was in trouble at mile two when a wind gust pushed me off the side of the road.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Despite the weather, let me tell you all the good things about yesterday. First, this was a local race. I am starting to really love local races. They're typically smaller and cheaper. They have more of a community feel to them. I don't have to get up super early to get there on time or pay for parking. Also, for the first time ever, I got to have people there to cheer me on! For the most part, I tend to run races by myself so I'm used to waiting at the start line and before the race by myself while others stand around in groups. This can lead to a lot of panic and stress inside my head. Plus, it's just boring. And I won't lie... the days leading into this race were stressful, leaving me to feel like I didn't even want to do it. This was not one where I needed to be inside my head before the race. So, let me tell you that it was a huge relief to see my parents walking across the parking lot as I was waiting in line for the porta potties yesterday morning. They huddled in the shelter of a building with me while I did active stretches and we tried to stay out of the wind. Note how crazy my hair is in this shot and I said we were trying to stay OUT of the wind. It was so windy that the wind actually blew the inflatable start line away, which I've never seen happen at a race.
The start of the race was delayed by about ten minutes because the line for portapotties was so long, which was annoying. They definitely didn't have enough--which is my only complaint about the race organization! We started with a very moving speech about Veteran's Day by a veteran. Although the race was sponsored by United Way and just happened to fall on Veteran's Day, I like that they still recognized Veteran's Day. It was a good reminder of running because there are those who are unable to run.

I started out with my goal race pace, which was 9:30 and felt good. The first mile was a loop around from the starting line. Although Shane and the boys got there right as the race started, I didn't see them, so as I came around to mile 1, I got to wave at them. That was really neat. After that loop, we headed out into the country roads. Things started to get rough with the wind at mile 2. I don't usually get stitches in my side when I run, however, struggling into the wind left me with a huge stitch. I tried to draw in air and stretch out my arm, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of it. Eventually, I realized that I was just going to have to run through it. At mile 4, we turned so the wind was at our backs for awhile. This was a huge relief. You could see everyone's spirits pick up and we all fell into a faster pace with the wind pushing us. I knew that there was a spectator spot at mile 5.5, so I'd loosened my long sleeve shirt in the hopes that I could toss it off to my family and not have it flapping around my waist in the wind for the rest of the run.
I managed to complete the toss, but the boys were back playing in a stand of trees and I didn't see them. However, as I kept running, I heard Luke yell, MOMMY!! And looked behind to see him running after me. I waved and he stopped and waved, so that definitely motivated me. At mile 6.5, I decided to grab a cup of water. I wasn't thirsty, but my lips were pretty dry from the wind. I really wanted to drink and run, but a huge gust of wind ended up slamming the water into my face, so I had to slow to a walk. Unfortunately, the water ended up sloshing around in my stomach and maybe the water wasn't the best idea. After mile 7, we turned straight into the wind and this is the part of the race where it got hard.

I've run in wind before. I live in the midwest and in the fall and winter, it's windy. It's just a weather condition we deal with, but I've never run in this much wind and for this long before. There was no getting out of it. With fields on every side of us and with the corn harvested, it was wide open. The wind was slamming straight into our faces with no reprieve. At one point, I was running so hard that I had stitches in both sides and felt like I was going to throw up from the effort. I felt like I was sprinting, like I was doing speedwork. I looked at my watch... and I was running an 11 minute mile. That's it. For all the effort I was giving, that's all I was doing. To say that I felt defeated at that moment would be an understatement. And yes, I walked, because it is really, really hard to keep your motivation and energy up when you're dealing with that sort of element. I tried so hard, but all I could see in front of me was a long stretch of open road with no break from the wind in sight. I walked just long enough to get angry and then I ran until the next water stop when I needed more water for my dried lips. I didn't even try to run through it again because I knew the water would just take the cup away if I tried to run and drink. The worst part is that at this point, when we turned where the wind wasn't directly in our faces, it didn't help any because it just hit us from the sides. There was no escaping it until the very end of the race. The last five miles were probably the biggest struggle and not because I didn't train for it, but because the wind just would not let up.

At mile 12, I stopped for one last water stop, which I kind of knew was a mistake because my calves tend to knot up when I get near the end, but my throat was so dry from breating in all the dust from the fields. Of course, my calves cramped and that last little bit was torture. I had hopes of running the last mile strong, but I couldn't do it. I knew from my watch that I would PR by a lot, but I also knew that without the winds, I could've done better. Still, I plodded in as best I could. After struggling up a hill at 12.5, I saw my dad walking into the wind on the grass against the runners and I kicked it in. He said, "I can't believe this wind." I said, "You're telling me!!" He said, "Your fans are to the left just before the finish line." I knew the finish line was around the corner and I kicked it in as much as I could, which wasn't much because I hurt. My legs felt fine, but physically, my body just hurt. I felt like I'd been pummelled for the last five miles, which I kind of was.

I knew that Luke had on a bright orange stocking cap, so I searched the crowd for his orange cap. As I saw him, my eyes also scanned in a few new faces. I seriously almost stopped in my tracks (which would've been bad for the runners behind me) when I saw Katy, Anna, Shelli (and Lily) also standing with my mom, Shane, Luke and Tommy waving signs and cheering. I crossed the finish line, got my medal, then doubled back where I was hugged by the boys. Luke immediately recoiled and told me that my armpits really smelled. Ha! Tommy later told me that he was screaming as I "ran really faster at the end." I PR'd by 13 minutes over my half in April. I finished that one in 2:25 and crossed the finish line yesterday in 2:12. The best part was not the PR, though, it was the people willing to stand out there in the wind and cheer me on... just because they cared. That means more to me than any time I could ever set.

After the race, we went out to lunch where I celebrated my new PR with a much deserved drink and delicious meal with my parents and those wonderful girls that I mentioned above!
I am very, very lucky.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Disney/Pixar's Brave [Giveaway]

**Giveaway closed! Congratulations to Heather, comment #17**

I have a confession to make: as a little girl, I was never really into princesses. My favorite Disney movie? Alice in Wonderland. I just wasn't your princess loving little girl. I liked to climb trees and run through the woods. I was the type of kid who came home muddy at the end of a day and fought getting dressed up, so I didn't really understand the whole princess in a frilly dress thing. While I thought that Belle was very nice, I definitely had no interest in wearing that uncomfortable looking dress.

This makes me think that I would've loved Merida.

Merida is not the princess of my childhood and for that, I am glad. Merida is a princess who I would've loved, riding on horseback through the woods shooting with her bow and arrows. Merida is determined to carve out her own path and sets out on a chaotic adventure full of twists and turns that leave the viewer wondering if she'll find her true path in the end.

I love so much about this movie. I love that it's set in Scotland with stunning views of the Scottish highlands, along with a score that combines Gaelic melodies alongside songs by Mumford and Sons. I was a little worried that my boys (ages 3 and 5) would find some parts of this movie scary, but they were okay with being talked through it. There's also a great deal of comic relief with Merida's little brothers, all of whom reminded me of my three year old! Overall, my boys thoroughly enjoyed this movie--and I enjoyed it as an adult, which is always a bonus. I love that Merida is a strong female protagonist. I feel that it's important for little girls to follow strong female characters, but I also feel that it's important for boys to do the same. Also, as an adult woman, I could empathize a lot with Merida's relationship with her mother. I think all women have been there!

Have you seen it yet? Did you love it? Have you not seen it but want to? Brave debuts on November 13th and I have a copy of the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition for one lucky reader! The bonus features are so much fun, including one that goes through the animation used in creating the brawl in the hall--one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

To enter, all you need to do is comment and tell me if you were more of a Merida or a Belle as a child. Giveaway will run through Wednesday, November 7th. Winner will be chosen by Good luck!

Although I received a copy of Brave to review, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Knock Knock... trick or treat!

It's safe to say that this was our best Halloween yet.
This was the first year that Tommy really, really got it. Last year, he was still a YOUNG two and while he understood that he was getting candy at some houses, he was still content to hang back and was mostly still too shy to hold out his treat bag. This year? He was off and running with his brother.
At one house, he gleefully shouted KNOCK KNOCK as he ascended the steps, followed by TRICK OR TREAT. If you know Tommy, you know how shy he can be around people he doesn't know, so you'll know why we all looked at each other and burst into laughter at his excitement.

I didn't take very many photos because I was too busy watching them run from house to house and have fun. We trick-or-treated for an hour, which is probably our longest time. Tommy started to get tired toward the end and handed my dad his candy bag between houses with the warning, "But don't eat any of it, Papa."

Their excitement was probably sweeter than the Halloween candy that I stole from their pile after they went to bed.

I hope your Halloween was full of treats!