Sunday, December 16, 2012

deep breaths and heavy heart

I've struggled with whether or not to blog, because what can I say about Friday's tragedy that hasn't been said already? But writing it out can be healing, I hope, and we need to heal.

I am taking this one doubly hard, as a teacher and a mother of a soon-to-be six year old. I just simply cannot imagine the pain caused and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've lost count of how many times I've wept for the loss this weekend. I just... I can't even imagine how you move on from this, how those parents and survivors even begin to recover, ever.
I didn't find out about Sandy Hook until a few hours after it happened. I was busy teaching. I was using my computer to show a clip of a Holocaust survivor speaking about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, so I wasn't even checking my email Friday. Then I had a parent conference, then I went to lunch. It wasn't until after lunch that I checked my email and first had any idea of what happened, as my response to intervention class filtered in. They were supposed to read Chapter 6 of Call of the Wild. They begged me, instead, to let them play Heads up, Seven up arguing that they worked hard all week. I let them. They must've been so surprised because I rarely let them win these arguments--and believe me, they try often--but I gave in so quickly. Because, well, I probably don't even have to explain why.

Next hour, I continued to teach about the uprising. It was hard. The clip I showed had a woman speaking of how they fought in the uprising because they knew they were going to die, but they wanted to die in their own terms. We talked about this and how there was a strength in her words and how kids their own age were the true heroes of the uprising because they were the ones who slipped in and out of the ghetto to get weapons from the liberation front. It was hard, really hard, to teach this subject with the news in the back of my mind. I swallowed a lot of lumps in my throat.

As soon as I got in my car, the tears came and they haven't really stopped. As a teacher, I know that school is sometimes the only safe haven some of my students have. For some of them, it may be the one hot meal they get in a day. It may be the one place where an adult looks at them kindly and cares for them. While I teach in a great community, I'm not so naive to believe that every home is perfect. And so, I try very hard to make my classroom a safe space for kids. For 8th graders, that means that I joke around with them and they give it right back. The fact that they give it right back to me? THAT is how I know that I've made a safe space. When they tell me things about their life, that's how I know I've made a safe space. When they ask about my life, that's how I know that I've made a safe space. When they linger after class and say, "Your class always goes so fast because it's fun and I do well," that's how I know I've made a safe space. When they tell me they like the stories we've read so far, that's how I know I've made a safe space. When I reteach a concept and give them an exit slip on it and one of them writes, "I get it now!" on the bottom, that's how I know I've made a safe space. And when I am reminded that NO MATTER WHAT I DO, that space can never really be safe, it gets inside my head.

We do lockdown drills. They get inside your head. The kids might giggle slightly at being crammed together, but we all know what they mean. We all know that every time we practice one, it's because it could happen. When I stand there and look at the setup in my room, I think, "Why can't I fit more kids behind my desk? I should move that file cabinet." And when there's a school shooting, we all sit around and rearrange our room mentally and think, "Where would we put them? How would I protect them?" Truthfully, I wish I could stay home tomorrow, hide under a blanket, because I know my kids will want to talk. I know they'll need reassurance that it's still a safe space... and I'm not sure that I can give that to them, but somehow, I will find a way.

Monday, December 10, 2012

From Cookies to Latkes

It's possible that our Saturday contained the best possible combination of holiday celebrating ever. First, Luke and I got to go to the Fairmont Chicago to decorate holiday cookies and learn some tips to keep holiday cookies healthier than the usual treats (one delicious recipe was for coconut wreaths with agave syrup that I'm dying to make... and eat). Although it was chilly in the city and Luke was anxious to go inside, he obliged me with a photo opp outside the hotel.
Once inside, we found out that the event was in the ballroom downstairs, which meant not one but two escalator rides. Simply put, Luke was in heaven before we even started. Escalators shouldn't be such a big deal, except that we never, ever go to the mall because it is impossible to go to the mall without running into my students or Shane's students... so the poor child doesn't get much of a chance to ride escalators.

His escalator excitement was soon forgotten when we got inside and he saw the cookie decorating setup. And I mean, who wouldn't be excited at this?
Fairmont's pastry chef Erin helped Luke get the hang of the frosting bags (which were filled with the most delicious buttercream that I debated the merits of putting aside polite behavior to just squeeze one directly into my mouth... polite behavior won out--just barely) and then he was off with his decorations.
In between bites of cookies and sips of hot chocolate, of course. Luke got to take home all of the cookies that he decorated and he was so excited to show them to Shane and Tommy and share his creations. I would applaud his self-control for not eating them on the way home, but he eat a pretty disturbing amount of frosting, cookie decorations and other cookies during the process! We had the absolute best time together decorating cookies. Most importantly, Luke felt so very special with his chef's hat and his own cookie decorating station. I can't wait to recreate it when we make cookies for Santa.
So, Christmas cookies in the morning... how did we spend our afternoon and evening? A few weeks ago, Julie asked Katy and me if she could come celebrate Hanukkah with us because she had no one to celebrate with this year. Not only can I not stand the thought of one of my best friends not having a home for the holidays, but I truly believe that part of making my children good citizens of the world is instilling in them the knowledge and understanding of other cultures and the awareness that there are so many other beliefs in this world. Love and compassion is so important. Also, I've heard that Hanukkah focuses on fried food, so there's that.
Julie did an excellent job explaining to Luke why Hanukkah is celebrated with oil and how the Maccabees overcame persecution.
He listened with rapt attention and I hope above all what he absorbed is that people should be allowed to believe what they want to believe, so long as they aren't hurting anyone.
Before Julie came, he asked me if he'd be allowed to light the candles. I told him that I thought he could candle this. Julie explained to him that there were eight candles, with one helper candle and that you let them burn all the way down each night.
Julie also explained to Luke the importance of having your head covered during prayers and read him the prayers in both English and Hebrew.
Julie also brought the boys a piggy bank to collect money to donate to a charity or organization of their choice. We've been talking about where we'll give the money when it's full, but they haven't decided yet. I love the idea of giving back, though!
Finally, we sat and played dreidel and allowed Julie to eat (because of course, we made her do all the cooking on her holiday, as you do). Although I had a stupendous lead and earned more than my fair share of gelt, I then started losing horribly and was the first one out. Alas, the gifts of Hanukkah were just not meant to be mine!
As I tucked Luke into bed (after a slight overtired meltdown), he gave me a huge hug and kiss and told me he had the very best day ever. I'm pretty sure he meant it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

From Half Training to Half Running

I haven't talked much about running since my half marathon. I thought that I would segue right from that into a speed 5k program and work on some more 5k PRs or even a 10k PR, since I technically got a 10k PR during my half marathon.

However, the wind during the half did some lasting damage on my feet. As I was running, I was completely cognizant that my gait was off, way off. I knew that I was hitting my feet funny as I was hunching my body into the wind, but there was really no way to correct it. I am normally a heel striker, but due to the wind, I was running like I would run up hills, which meant that I was hitting with my forefoot. Toward the end of the race, I could feel the strain on my feet. 13 miles was nothing. I ran 13 miles or more four times through the course of my training plan, so it was just another long run at that point. My legs weren't sore at all, but my feet were screaming. At lunch afterward, the bottom of my feet felt scalded, like when you step on hot sand. I remember slipping off my feet and placing them on the cool restaurant floor. It was like instant relief.

This kind of pain is common for me after hill repeats where forefoot striking happens. I can usually ice it and be back on my feet in a day. However, hill repeats are usually only 2 miles. This was obviously a much longer run. I expect that my feet were hitting harder due to the wind. Ice didn't work this time. Neither did moleskin. I really didn't let on how bad my feet were for a while, but they were pretty bad. It doesn't help that I have a job where I can't sit down, so my feet didn't really have a chance to recover. They'd start to feel better on the weekends, then I'd be back at work and on my feet all day and they'd HURT. I'd step down and wince because I'd get a stabbing pain in the ball of my foot. I was walking on the side of my foot to alleviate pain. I was hobbling around the house. In short, it was pretty ridiculous.

I limited my running. Although I was still running some, I've been running no more than 8-10 miles a week, which is pretty maddening. Truthfully, running didn't hurt because again, when I run normally, I heel strike. No weight comes down on where it hurts. It's just that as soon as I would stop running and start walking, the pain would return. I feel like I'm losing/have lost a lot of the fitness I accrued during the half marathon training. Yes, this makes me crazy. No, I don't regret holding back because my feet were a mess. Slowly, they started to get better, to the point where I could walk normally, but they're still sore. I finally admitted that three weeks after the half, they shouldn't STILL be sore. So I did a google search and found a podiatrist who seemed very runner friendly.

My appointment was yesterday. My mantra the whole time was "please no fracture." Early on in the worst of the pain, I was pretty sure I'd fractured it. Or possibly smashed every bone in my foot because it hurt SO much. This is partly why I've been stubborn about going to see a doctor--which is unlike me, because I'm the first to see a doctor when I'm sick. The first thing the doctor commented on was my high arches (actually, the real first thing he commented on was how super healthy I am--favorite!). This made me laugh because people always comment on how high my arches are. I didn't tell him that I really love flip flops and they probably do not provide arch support. However, he explained that with high arches, I get even more pressure on the ball of my foot while running, so that was interesting. After looking at my feet, he noted that the area over the sesamoid bones is definitely inflamed. Score one for Dr. Google because a diagram of the feet led me to figure out that this was the area causing me pain. He said that he didn't think it was a fracture, but he wanted to do x-rays to rule it out entirely. I got x-rays done and continued my game of "please no fracture." He came back in after the x-rays developed and said my feet looked good, except for a slightly suspicious shadow on my right foot. He said that a stress fracture would've developed by now, so it isn't a concern. He also said that because it takes three weeks for a stress fracture to develop, it was good that I waited to come in. My stubbornness wins!

In the end, he prescribed anti-inflammatories, a cream, and epsom salt soaks twice a day, plus he wants to see me back next week to see how my feet are doing. He said if I'm still having pain, we'll talk about fitting me for orthotics to deal with my high arches. The best part? He said I can resume running normally. Music to my ears. It feels great having answers and also seeing a doctor who was runner friendly. He said several times that he thinks it's great how healthy I am and how I tackle longer distances. He never said, "You're here because you ran and hurt yourself. Don't you think it's maybe not a good idea to jump back into that?" I loved that he understood why I wanted to get running again as soon as possible. Mostly, I'm glad that I have answers. The final diagnosis was that I bruised my sesamoid bones and also that the wind is a big, stupid jerk.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green {Giveaway}

**Giveaway closed! Congrats to Thea**

Given that I have two young kids, I don't get the chance to see many kid movies that aren't cartoons. So when I was given the chance to review The Odd Life of Timothy Green, I jumped at it. A kid movie that isn't a cartoon? Sign me up!

To be honest, I wasn't quite sure if the boys would be into it because as I said, they're still in the cartoon watching stage. To my surprise, they both loved it and have watched it three times since we received it. This is big for Tommy who struggles to sit through feature length cartoons, let alone movies that have actual humans in them.

And as for me? Well, I cried. I could relate to so many of the parenting struggles in the movie, the wondering if you're doing it right and questioning yourself constrantly. I loved the magical theme and the humor. Simply put, I loved this movie--and if you haven't seen it, I believe you will, too. It also opened up some good discussions with my five year old on these struggles and the way we sometimes don't always do our best, but we try so very hard.

Want a chance to enjoy this movie, too? The Odd Life of Timothy Green releases tomorrow, but I have a copy of the two-disc combo pack for one lucky winner (*cannot ship to PO boxes and will need a phone number to ship to Canadian readers). To enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you would like to win this DVD. Good luck! Giveaway closes Wednesday, December 5th.

I was given a copy of the DVD to review, but opinions are all my own.

A Date Weekend

Life has been very busy lately. I haven't been able to run as much due to some random, stupid foot injury that I'm going to get checked out this week (please let it be minor and quickly healed), so I've had more free time on the weekends, which is nice. It is also maddening because the weather has been unseasonably warm and it's killing me to not be out running in it, but I'm trying to enjoy the thrill of easing into the day and not jumping out of bed to hit the pavement. It's kind of working.

Saturday, Shane had to help move his grandpa from assisted living to a nursing home and Luke had plans with my parents, so Tommy and I had the whole day to ourselves. The day started off a little suspicious when Tommy accidentally dumped an entire cup of orange juice on his head, but after weeping pulpy tears, I got him in the tub and calmed him down and we were off to Target.

We don't go to Target often because I like to not spend all of my money all of the time, but when we do, we have to look at the bikes and the vacuum cleaners. It's Tommy's routine. He likes to point out which vacuum cleaners people own. He also likes to discuss the steam mops. Our real purpose in heading to Target was to let him pick out his own underwear because I am very desperate and would like him to finally potty train. He chose Spiderman underwear. I hope this works. Of course because it's Target, I also bought 1231231209 things I didn't need, like an advent calendar, some Archer Farms frozen ravioli that sounded good, various types of cheeses (obviously I was shopping while hungry) and two giant things of International Delight Peppermint Mocha creamer (okay, I needed the creamer).

After Target, we were going to get frozen yogurt, but the frozen yogurt place wasn't open yet so we ended up going to Steak n Shake. I asked Tommy if he wanted a milkshake. Then I asked him if he'd ever had a milkshake, to which he said no. I can't believe a child of mine made it three and a half without ever having a milkshake. I'm such a failure of a parent!
He was a little disgruntled that he had to wait for his milkshake, but once it arrived, he decided it was clearly worth that wait.

We had a great time, even though it took him 1200 years to finish his chicken fingers. I think we were the slowest eaters in Steak n Shake. We had a great time. Then we headed to the post office to buy stamps for our Christmas cards. Tommy got to do the honors of dropping the Christmas cards into the big mailbox, which is one of our favorite things to do.

Tommy isn't really quite big enough for us to go to the movies. Well, we could take Luke to the movies at his age, but he can't sit still a movie in our house yet, so I'm not even trying that one. So when we do one on one time, it's simple things like running errands and going to lunch, just spending time together. It's precious and fun and I'm so glad for this time.

Sunday morning, it was kind of rainy, which ruined our plans to go to the arboretum. Instead, I asked Luke if he wanted to go see Wreck it Ralph, which I've wanted to see since I saw the preview this summer. We headed off to the movies, where we discovered that Sunday morning was not a busy time, as there were only about twelve people in the theatre. Luke wanted to sit in the very last row, so we did. Even though it was an early show, we still had to have popcorn and icees!
We both loved the movie! It was really cute and funny, as well as incredibly original. I love video games, too, so I liked that whole aspect. Luke said he really liked it, too, but that some of the jokes were "inappropriate potty humor." You can tell what we correct on in our house!
Afterward, I asked Luke if he wanted lunch, but he told me he was too full from the popcorn. Somehow he had room for ice cream because, you know, that's a different stomach and all.

While we were gone, Shane and Tommy took advantage of the nicer weather and hung up all the Christmas lights, so it was a good day all around. It's not every weekend that I get two shots at one-on-one time with my boys, so I'm going to count this one as a huge win.