Friday, May 25, 2012

This post is brought to you by the letter "L"

I try to be a nice friend.

I will text you on your birthday. I will think about making you cupcakes when you're having a bad day. I will have a Starbucks blended beverage in your honor. And, when you tag me in a blog post, I will do as you say and then change it to fit my needs.

See, I'm super nice!

L, who is still on the DL after a fall, tagged me in a random things post. The lucky number for y'all is 11. And who doesn't want to know 11 things about me?

Wait. You do. You probably know more about me than I do and, if you are even remotely Google proficient, you can find out more and then read the lackluster summer fiction series that I wrote for work last year.

Speaking of work ... instead of 11 things about me, I'm going to share 11 things that are on my work desk.

1. An alien mug that I picked up at the Martian Invasion of Races expo. I almost never buy any race memorabilia at an expo but I had to have it. Mostly because it says "Obey Me." Word.

2. A four-cup coffee maker. I asked for one for Christmas when I was on decaf/breast feeding. I still use it on occasion, mostly when I've hit my caffeine limit but still want to imbibe my second most favorite beverage. (Diet Coke is still No. 1)

3. "Train Like A Mother." Yep, the perks of working at a newspaper. We're not allowed to keep items that are sent to us from PR peeps but I wanted to page through it before I put it in the charity sale pile. I tell you ladies, I like what I see.

4. A landline telephone. Yes, they do exist.

5. Five tomato plants. Yes, tomato plants. A co-worker started a bunch from seed and was basically handing them out as door prizes this week. I greedily took five since I plan to expand my garden ... this weekend.

6. A calendar. I rarely write anything on it - mostly birthdays and vacations. Speaking of vacations, June will be busy. There's a weekend trip to Cincinnati and another to the Rocky Mountain state. I hear it's home to my very first niece!

7. A Living section cover featuring Miles. Another thing about working at a newspaper - you (and your child and your dog) will be called on to model at least once. I have been in the paper blowing a kiss (like the Hershey kind), wearing frumpy mom clothes and modeling a crocheted bag.

8. A summer events guide. It's full of fun things to do in the area - all the good festivals, shows and concerts. All the good stuff that I probably won't go to. I always have good intentions until ... sorry, life just happened.

9. A stapler. Sadly, it's not of the red Swingline variety.

10. Recipes that I printed off from Self Magazine's Drop 10 challenge. I've been feeling in a rut with my eating/weight, and I wanted something to give me a bit of structure and variety. I'm not following the plan to the "T" (I'm making my own dinners) but using it as a guideline for lunches and snacks, which are the times I struggle the most.

11. A picture of my grandma and me at my high school graduation. It's not a particularly great photo - she looks like she was protesting and I was pretty heavy at the time. But, it's my grandma and any photo of her is awesome.

The end ... except not. I am also supposed to answer a few questions. Dang it, L is so demanding.

1.  What time of the day are you at your best (morning, afternoon, evening, night)? Diet Coke time

2.  What time of the day do you prefer to run? MORNING

3.  What is your favorite distance to run? To race? I like to run 8 or 10 miles. I feel accomplished after that kind of distance but not spend. To race?  Half marathons.

4.   What is your favorite big box store to shop at (Meijer, Wal Mart, Target, other)? Target, hands down

5.   What is one physical activity you wish you could try? Cross Fit

6.  What is the one place you want to visit? San Francisco

7.  Describe your ideal place? Quiet

8.  What is something you are most proud of? Managing to keep Miles alive for 10+ months.

9.  What is your favorite meal? Breakfast

10.  What is your favorite meal preparation technique (take out, grilling, slow cooker, oven, nuke it, other)? Baking. I know it's not good for me but I love the satisfaction that comes with treating others.

11.  What question would you ask if you tagged others with this? (clever, I know). Why do you love me so?

OK. Now, I'm done. I am. I refuse to do more - no coming up with 11 questions or tagging people. Mostly because I want a Diet Coke and because this week has zapped any ability I have to think for myself.

Excuse me, now. That Diet Coke is waiting.

Food Friday: DIY stock

It was ugly. Oh, so ugly.

After all, it was for all purposes garbage ... but one person's garbage is another person's dinner.

Or something like that.

My friend has been making his own vegetable stock lately. He's always talking about saving the bulb of the celery and having leftover carrots and tossing it all in a pot and making stock. While he's a proficient, if not accomplished, cook, I doubted the ability of a person to toss in old vegetables into a pot of water and come out with something edible. It didn't seem worth the risk when there's cute little boxes at the grocery store that make all of that so easy.

Until I was left in a dinner quandary.

I had intended to make chicken and noodle soup for dinner (so smart given the week's heat wave) but found myself with no stock and just leftover chicken meat - no bones to make my own broth. I did, however, have a bunch of carrots, some celery and some onions on their last leg. I had nothing to lose by trying to make some vegetable stock ... except some vegetables destined for composting.

I searched a variety of recipes and settled on a slow cooker one because it made the most sense for the day. With a bit of trepidation, I tossed in:
  • About celery stocks, with leaves
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 mini sweet bell peppers
  • 1 potato
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, parsley and sage
  • 14 cups water
  • *Note: Vegetables are unpeeled but cut into chunks
I set it on low for 8 hours and went to work. Upon my return, I found the house full with the aroma of home-cooked food.

I strained the broth in a colander (not the fine mesh strainer recommended) and made chicken and noodles. The meal was tasty but unremarkable though not the fault of the broth - and more the fault of the German noodles I bought.

I have about 10 cups of stock leftover to redeem myself, though, and it cost me nothing but some garbage and the 42 cents in electric the slow cooker required. 

I guess it does beat those boxes in the grocery.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hair raiser

Growing up, I was known for one thing: my hair.

No matter my weight or how I fit into the mold of beauty, I was always complimented on my hair. The color, the thickness, the cut. Mostly, though it was the color.

And while I did somewhat tire of it, I could always feel like I had something going for me - even when I felt less than confident in my appearance.

It's something I've passed onto Miles.

From the moment he was born, we were in awe of his copper top.

Even as he lost his baby hair, he remained a ginger - much to my chagrin.

Everywhere we go, Miles is complimented for his hair - I swear it was the topic of multiple conversations last weekend at Panera. There was a table of two women who could not get over it. At. All.

As he grows older, though, it's not so much about the color. It's about the style. A style I can do nothing about. No matter what I do, his hair sticks straight up. I've tried wetting it and then brushing it. I've used eco-friendly, gentle hair products but no dice. The closest I get is a bit of a faux hawk ( a style I'm excited to exploit in the future).

I naively thought that a hair cut might help. We went on Sunday, and I had the distinct pleasure of trying to wrangle him as the stylist moved at lightning speed. She got the sides even and trimmed the top. Our efforts, though, I fear it made it worse.

Not that I mind really - I think he looks cute, regardless ... and I'm a firm believer that parents should have crazy photos of their kids for use during the teenage years.

Note: I understand that this is a completely gratuitous post to showcase pictures of my child. Return tomorrow for regular programming.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dawning of a new day

I was naive. So, so, so naive.

As a very new mom, I thought that one day Miles would not only sleep through the night but sleep through the night in his own bed. I also thought that I would be able to get up early and squeeze in a run before Miles got up, making the often-times arduous stroller runs the exception and not the rule.

Obviously this did not happen.

Mark's and my effort to make everyone's sleep a priority, rejecting sleep training and accepting the transition to a family bed have made this nearly impossible, especially when factoring in Miles' poor sleep habits. Even if I could get up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. to run, Mark gets up at 5:45 to shower for work and that would leave Miles alone in bed.

No run is worth the risk of him getting hurt. The stroller runs have almost been a penance for allowing him to sleep with us, and I've had to accept tweaks in the schedule when he sleeps too late.

Mark and I have discussed getting Miles back in his bed, especially as his year birthday approaches but more so because he's become increasingly difficult to sleep with. We've had hourlong parties at midnight and been throat punched more than we'd like. There have been noses picked, hair pulled and kicks to the nether regions.

However, it was last night when I somehow got peed on in addition to those things when I finally said, "Enough." I figured he could go in his crib and fuss it out. Even if it kept us up, no matter - we were up anyway. Lo and behold, after less than 5 minutes of fussing, he was asleep. He did wake up at 5:15 but a bottle and cuddles quieted him and I found myself awake at 5:30.

Now, I could have gone back to sleep. It definitely would have been beneficial to my mood. I had a sinking feeling, though, that Miles would sleep later and infringe on my very narrow run window. So I went into the bedroom and asked Mark if it was OK to run. (Note: It wasn't really a question but more of a courtesy.)

I suited up and was out the door by 5:45. My dream, 10 months in the making, became reality.

The run wasn't particularly fantastic and my MOTOACTV gave me problems (again ... more on that later) but it was so freeing to be out before it got hot, before people were out, before the sun was up. I covered just shy of 4 miles and walked in the door just as Miles woke up.

I'm not sure how regular this occurrence might be but I am thankful for today.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weak start to the week

Mark was hot. Miles was hot. I was hot. So it was safe to assume my car was hot - at least that's what I did when I saw a little light pop up on my dashboard.

When it came on again this morning, I figured that I should look in my manual and see what the dern thing meant.

Note to Mazda: Please just tell me what things mean instead of giving me a little drawing. If I can drive a car, I should be able to read.

Lo and behold that squibble means "Check Engine."


Shit, shit, shit.

I called the dealership from my driveway and arranged to drop off my car after taking Miles to daycare. Upon arrival, I found out that it would take several hours to run the diagnostic test and find out why the light came on. Not what I wanted to hear. Especially not what I wanted to hear on a Monday morning.

Thank goodness there were snacks and drinks available.

Oh, and Wi-Fi.

Mostly, though, I was grateful for the coffee.

I snagged a cup of decaf before hopping the shuttle to work (another thing to be grateful for in such a predicament) and waited nervously for the call back. The service manager said that 99 percent of the time the problem is covered by the warranty but there is that 1 percent.

And that 1 percent happens to be.

As it turns out, the tabs on the air filter box were broken during an oil change and too much air was getting into the engine. The service manager at the dealership said the place where I had the oil changed should be responsible for the repair and I already talked to Mr. Jiffy Lube Boss Dude. He was apologetic, saying he took over the store three weeks ago and isn't that surprised about what happened. He's going to make sure it's taken care of.

Good thing, too, because not fixing the problem could result in long term engine damage. And to think I almost didn't take Blue Bird in.

I have a long history of ignoring car repairs (among other things), the tendency rooted in behavior from my other life. Example: My previous car, a 2001 red Grand Am, had myriad problems, all of which I were swept aside. I pretended that it was OK that it shook when I stopped at a traffic light,  that the lights throbbed when braking and using the A/C meant the turn signals would not work.

My choice to ignore my car problems wasn't because I didn't have the money or time to fix things. It was because I didn't take pride in myself or the things I had. I turned a blind eye to every problem - cars, financial, health. My car road rough, my credit sucked and I was morbidly obese - and I have no doubt that they were intertwined. You might think it's a bit far-fetched, that thinking, but studies have linked obesity and debt. When one area of your life spirals out of control, it's likely that other areas will as well.

It wasn't until I started to take responsibility for my health, though, that things began to change in other areas. I took big steps to improve my credit, paying bills instead of going shopping. I stopped leaving dirty clothes in the living room. My car got regular oil changes and washes though I do admit are sometimes executed by Mark.

In sum: I started acting like a grownup (which, by the way, can be completely overrated).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In loving memory and moving forward

I ran a 5K today.

It was hot. It was hilly. My time ... well, it wasn't what I know I can do and definitely not what I had hoped I would do.

The 5K, though, was about none of those things. It was a race that was not about me.

The gym where I take/teach (can I say that yet?!?) was one of the sponsors for the 5K, and the gym manager had been encouraging folks to sign up for the race. The event, though, took on new meaning when a couple affiliated with the gym lost their baby at 20 weeks gestation. I am acquainted with them but not close and even still the loss of Aiden has been devastating and heartbreaking. As a way to honor his memory and maybe, if it's even possible, take steps forward, we decided to participate in the race as a group. Family, instructors, fitness class participants, tumbling students - we all donned T-shirts in Aiden's memory and in support of the couple.

Miles was kind enough to contribute his snot to the shirt pre-race :)

While many people were walking, I did know that I was going to run - how I was going to run was TBD until the horn went off. Even though I had run 4 miles this morning and it was 90 degrees out and I was in a cotton T-shirt, I thought I'd give it all I had.

And I did - in the first quarter-mile. The numbers I saw on my MOTOACTV were crazy in that first section, and I knew that it was only going to be downhill from there. More like uphill, actually.

There was not a flat section on the course. Period. You would get a small chance to recover on a downhill before being greeted with another uphill. The inclines made it very difficult to settle into a groove, pace-wise. Fast, slow, fast, slow.

The terrain was tiring but it was the heat that was crippling. The race was at 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day, and there was full sun. To give you an idea: I was dripping sweat from my thighs before I even started and after the first mile, I could taste the salt on my lips. I tried to stay hydrated, carrying a bottle with me, but the water was warm within a half-mile and completely undrinkable by the 2-mile mark.

There were a few moments when I really wanted to give up. To just walk. But I reminded myself that the couple I was running for couldn't just walk away from what they were going through. I could suck it up and run up a hill, run in the heat if they could get up day after day and live through the pain. I know that sounds like an unlikely comparison or a bit cheesy, especially for me, but I will tell you this: those thoughts and feelings were true. Maybe the heat really did get to me.

By the time I was climbing the last hill, I knew a sub-27 was far out of reach and I wasn't even going to come close to my last 5K, which was 27:35. I still dug deep for a final kick and finished in 28:26.

Once my chip was off, I grabbed a water ... and another ... and then a chocolate milk. And then I grabbed Miles. I was sweaty and tired but I clung to him because, more than anything, these past two weeks have taught me just how lucky I am to be his mom. Even when he hits me or picks my nose or won't go to sleep, he's there. It's a privilege that I'm not sure I deserve but one for which I'll be forever grateful.

I can't imagine what that couple is going through but I pray for them and baby Aiden ... that they find peace and happiness.