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Anxiously Engaged

We’ve been looking for a new apartment for about 6 months now. We are being “gently nudged” out of our current place and are hoping to find something a little closer to the park, a little closer to our friends, with a little more space (and with not too big a price tag).

I know we’ll find something. I know we will. I am sure there is something out there that we will be happy with. But, we’re six months in and I can’t help but be a bit anxious about it.

We’ve had people tell us their (large) apartment was too small for the size of our family. We’ve had one slip through our fingers based on some miscommunications and bad timing. We thought we found a great one — and then they renovated the kitchen and replaced the full-size fridge and stove with mini ones. Not so good for a family.

So it’s not really surprising that I’ve developed some anxiety around the situation. And, in fact, I wonder if being anxious may not just be part of the process as we move forward with the faith that eventually we’ll find what we’re looking for. There is a scripture in my faith that says that we should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”

Anxious in this case means dedicated and diligent, of course, but I wonder if those feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are just as necessary as dedication and diligence in helping us get to where we need to go. Wrestling with the doubts, the questions, the failures and the deadends — rather than simply giving into them — show that we care about the outcome, that we are seeking to do what is right and best for ourselves and our families, that we want to learn to trust our free will to bring us to not just any place, but to the right place.

To bring us home.

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I wish that I could confidently and carelessly say, “Well find the right place,” and go about my business without worry or stress. But it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. The anxiety is what keeps me “anxiously engaged” and diligently seeking . . . on Craigslist, PadMapper, Street Easy, and wherever else apartments are found.

And that’s fine. I’m willing to suffer through these months of low-level stress and (mostly) minor disappointment if it gets me a little closer to where I want to be.

p.s. Boston is next Monday! I’m running it! I’m anxious about that too! And I’ll post later this week with my bib number and final thoughts for those who are interested in following me from Hopkinton to Copley Square.

From the Backseat of a Bike

In case you were under the impression that because we don’t have a car, we don’t have backseat squabbles, let me disabuse you of that notion. We may not have a car, but, you know, life finds a way. And the backseat of a long tail bike is just as good as the back seat of any minivan.

Which means that our children, just like anyone else’s, are growing up saying things like, “But I wanted to sit in the front! You always get to sit in the front! Okay, fine, but I get to sit in the front next time!” or “Stop! You’re crowding into my space!” and playing games like the ABC game. Our version includes such rules as: a letter counts if you find a word that starts with that letter, you find a thing that starts with that letter, or you see the letter on a license plate. We’re really lucky that somebody is always wearing a zipper. Also, for an extra challenge, if we make it all the way through the alphabet before we reach our destination, not only do we start again, we have to find each letter twice before we move on to the next. Super tricky, I know.

And just as our children are prone to saying things like, “Are we there yet?” we are just as prone to say things like, “We get there when we get there!” or “No wrestling back there. No, I’m serious. Stop! Don’t make me pull over!”

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But, of course, they have made me pull over. We spent a lovely 10 minutes on the Manhattan bridge the other day, waiting for someone to get over the fact that we weren’t on the Williamsburg bridge. Life is hard sometimes, you know, when you don’t get to ride over the bridge you wanted. (And yet they both go to the same place. There’s a metaphor there, but I’m going to let you find it yourselves.)

When we got the bike we imagined life would be a montage of singing happy songs and waving at friendly/amused strangers as we rode joyfully, smoothly on our way. And while there is a fair amount of waving at amused strangers and even song-singing, there’s also a fair amount of dodging potholes, breaking up arguments, and restraining myself from yelling at motorists I feel are trying to get a little too close to me. Not quite so glamorous.

Still, it’s nice to know that just because we don’t have a car, doesn’t mean we’re missing out on all that family time fun. I’m just so glad that life really does find a way.

I’m Not Sure I Remember How To Do This

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Well, 22 miles turned out to be 17. It was cold and rainy. I had eaten only a couple of real meals since Monday. My digestive tract was still wonky. But Christy — who is coming off a sprained ankle to run Boston — and I pounded out 17 miles. At about mile 14 I started getting a little woozy, so I decided to run home, which, of course, was still 3 miles away. And, of course, the whole way home I was thinking, “Maybe I could gut it out for another lap around the park.” Between those thoughts was the more rational side of me saying that I’d be lucky to make it to the end of the block and to not be stupid by trying to get all those miles just for the sake of getting the miles.

I try not to be stupid most of the time, so home I went. And once I was there, I felt much better.

So I’m back up and running (<– I did that on purpose) just like old times. Only I still feel slow. And with the race less than 3 weeks away, I’m starting to be nervous. Do I really know how to do this? Does my body even remember how to run fast? I’ve put in lots and lots of miles these past 3 months — but not as many fast ones as I’d like. Nearly every run has been an “easy” slog pushing the stroller. What’s going to happen when I take that away?

I guess we’ll have to wait until April 21st to find out.

 

(The photo is from the last run I did before I got sick. I took Manchild to school and ran home over the Manhattan Bridge. I love this city.)

It Wouldn’t Be Peak Week If Everything Went Well

sickweek

This week:

We have watched “Frozen” a couple of times.

We have watched “The Incredibles” a couple of times.

Little Miss has made herself very comfortable around the refrigerator.

Squish has been very comfortable playing Zombie Tsunami on the iPad.

And I have gotten . . . not so comfortable lying on the couch and taking naps at 8:30 in the morning. (When I’m not hanging out in the bathroom, of course.)

It wouldn’t be peak marathon training if there weren’t some sort of physical distress to prevent me from getting those peak miles in. Which is fine, I suppose. I’ve been surprised (and pleased) at how well training has gone so far. And a few days of a stomach bug is better than a few weeks/months nursing an injury. But I was really hoping and looking forward to getting those 57 miles in this week — and breaking 200 for the month.

Bummer.

Here’s hoping I’m up for my last 20+ miler tomorrow morning.

What are you up to this weekend? Any big plans? Or little plans? Or plans to just kick it at home?

 

Boys Can Be Pretty, Too

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“What about these ones?” Manchild held up a box of running shoes. They were bright blue with hot pink accents. There may have been hearts on them. Clearly a pair of shoes made for a girl. Except, he didn’t know that and I didn’t have the heart to tell him. Or maybe I didn’t have the guts? Maybe I just didn’t know how.

After all, a color is just a color, right? He already has hot pink swimming trunks. He uses a pink plate or bowl and cup at nearly every meal. He likes pink. And that’s fine. Pink is just a color. I try to be neutral about such things, but I was grateful to have a reason to say no: “Those are cool. But they’re running shoes and you already have a pair of those. We’re looking for warm shoes for winter.”

He put them back on the shelf and we found a pair of brown boots with red laces instead.

That was back in November and I still think about it frequently. Not the event itself, but the question and answer that it brings to mind:

Why can’t you have the shoes with the pink hearts?

Because you’re a boy.

Boys can’t wear pink because it’s girly. Boys don’t play princesses. Boys don’t cry.

This seems unfair and hypocritical to me. Especially now that I have a girl. A girl who can do anything. Wear pink or blue. Be a doctor or a nurse. Play ball or be a ballerina.

Is it just me or does it feel like boys’ worlds get smaller as girls’ get bigger? How can I explain that to my boys? My boys who have no problem prancing around in princess dresses at their friend’s house? Who would rather be “bunnies” for Halloween than muscled superheroes? Who name their cars and airplanes things like Lilly, Amy, and Ella? How can I break it to them that, you know, they might get beat up, made fun of, teased to tears if they wear shoes with hot pink hearts of them?

I’ve been trying to figure it out for months. Do I tell them what could happen? Do I just draw a line at “cultural norms” and simply say, “Boys on this side, girls on that?” Do I let them feel it out for themselves?

And then, a week or so ago, this happened: Manchild was home sick from school. In an attempt to do something “fun” with our day, I pulled a bottle of nail polish from the bathroom cabinet. Within 5 minutes, both Little Miss and Squish had magenta toenails, and Squish was on his way to see if Manchild was interested as well.

I knew, of course, that he would be. And I knew that this was going to be a “teaching moment,” though I didn’t know who or what was going to be taught. Or how. But when Manchild walked in looking for the nail polish party, I opened my mouth, “Now, I don’t have any problem painting your toenails, but before I do, I want you to know that some people think that it is girly to have your nails painted, and if one of those people saw your nails when you are at swimming lessons, they might make fun of you or say mean things. So now I need to know: if someone said something to you about your toenails, what would you say to them?”

He hardly needed to think at all: “Well, I don’t want that to happen.”

End of discussion.

And beginning of an awakening. For me and my boys. And it kind of stinks. The world is closing in on us — on them, mostly. No pink nails. No shoes with hearts. Pretty soon there will be no more princess dress-ups, no hot pink swim shorts. Part of me wishes I’d just painted his nails, gotten the shoes, let him live it up while he can — until he comes home in tears wondering why I didn’t tell him, warn him, protect him from what he didn’t know.

I shudder at the thought.

And then I hope that as they “grow out” of their child-like and innocent games and interests and loves and into more traditionally “boyish” pursuits, they don’t also grow out of their sensitivity and sweetness — that being cut off from “cute” and “pink” and “pretty” doesn’t leave an angry scar.

A Peek at Peak Weeks

What are we at? Week 11 of 16? I think that’s right. Peak marathon training. If I thought I ran a lot in February, well, if all goes according to the training schedule, I’ll have covered a lot more ground by the end of March. We’re 10 days in and I’m up to 75 miles, if that gives you an idea.

Last Saturday was the first of 3 20+ mile runs I’ll do to prep for Boston. A few weeks ago I “accidentally” ran 19.5 (I thought I was around 18) and felt unaccountably good afterward. Like I could have done another couple of miles. No aches or pains or sorenesses (not until an hour or so later, anyway). But last week’s 20 felt like the 20-milers I used to know. The ones where my muscles feel tight and start cramping, where I wonder if I really am going to make it home, and once I do, I spend the next several hours wondering if I’m going pass out or throw up. (In a good way . . . ?)

But thankfully I have a stellar running buddy to chat with as we run around Prospect Park again, and again, and again (and again!), so the running itself is not a problem. We keep a good pace to go along with our sometimes-coherent chatter, and I’m optimistic that Boston itself will be a good run. So hooray for that.
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Other notable training-related occurrences:

I ran 12 miles with the jogger last week. I don’t think I’ve ever run that far pushing the jogger by myself. Both Squish and Little Miss were dreamy through the nearly 2-hour ride and were appropriately rewarded with hot chocolate at the end of it.

My training buddy, Madison, and I have been doing speedwork together as well. Hill workouts and 800-meter intervals, mostly. While Madison is faster than me and kills me by the final hill or interval, we’re both improving, and that’s pretty great to see. I am so grateful to have someone to push me when it would be easy to say, “Ah, that’s good enough for today.”

I’ve been using lemongrass oil on my knees which has done amazing things for me in staving off knee pain. Well, did amazing things for me. Until yesterday, when I woke up with contact dermatitis on both knees. So long, lemongrass oil! I seem to be allergic to you.

While lemongrass oil is out, ice cups for muscle massage are in. I have one tight spot on one calf (so weird how these things happen!) that is giving me issues. Knock on wood that it’ll be the only ache I have to get through before race day . . . .

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Finally, I just have to say that while things are going well, I miss checking in here more often. I miss sharing the beautiful, funny, exasperating everyday occurrences, and musing on the imponderables of parenthood . . . and whatever else I used to do.

I’ll be back soon . . . promise!

RSBC 2014 Week 4 Round-Up: February With a Cherry on Top

For some reason I was expecting a little more fanfare with the end of February. You know, 32 degrees or something. But it was not to be. It’s a good thing we took matters into our own hands and added a little bit of summer to spur us on through what I certainly hope are winter’s death throes, right? A good thing we tossed some cherries at the snow and cold? Just to show them what they’ll be missing out on in a few months?

But even though we had to use most of our energy to stay warm, we were able to spare a little for brainpower this February, were we not? We did learn something? Something about just how much we can take . . . and when to stop complaining and get back to the business of life? Am I right? At least that is what I learned: I can’t be bothered with the weather, I’ve got an 8-miler to run. Life, for better or worse, doesn’t freeze even if my fingers do.

We also learned that cherries are a little bit harder to find in February than at other times of the year. And maybe a little trickier to work with. Kara has a delicious sounding scone recipe to share, which, unfortunately, was not a hit with the kiddos. (I’d eat them Kara! All of them!) But she did hit a home run with the Ironman, finishing up the last couple of miles as February was turning to March.

(Which, as previously noted, did not mean winter-turning-to-spring. *sigh*)

karascherries

 

Once again, I’ll add more round-up-ish-ness as it arrives in my inbox!

UPDATE: Rachel finished the half-Ironman option of the challenge. Way to go, Friend!

RSBC Week 4: Honey with a Cherry on Top

Perhaps I should have chosen a more accessible, more seasonal challenge ingredient. Then, perhaps, I would not have been scrounging around for cherries of any kind: fresh, frozen, dried, canned. But alas! Apparently all I could think of was that cherries would make the winter better. And, actually, I hold to that thinking. Cherries would make the winter better. It’s a shame that you can’t find them when you want them most.

My apologies to those of you who were, like me, running around the grocery aisles looking for an acceptable form of cherries. (I hope you did not, however, cover as many miles as I did on foot this month, as 164 running miles is entirely too many — unless you are training for a big race.)

And if you did cover that much ground, let me make it up to you with this delicious kale salad recipe: kale with dried cherries, toasted pecans, sliced radishes, crumbled goat cheese, and a delicious homemade honey-mustard vinegarette. It has become a favorite of ours since I first made it six or so months ago — and a favorite of everyone I’ve served it to (which is not a small number).

(Also, send me your week 4 RSBC-ing and I’ll post the round-up early next week. lizzie (at) motherrunner (dot) com.)

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Kale Salad with Cherries and Honey-Mustard Vinegarette from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I’m not going to tell you exactly how much of what to add to your salad. Salads like this, I believe, are really a matter of personal preference. But I am going tell you that you can use whatever nuts/fruits/etc. you love. I’ve made it with dried cherries/pecans/goat cheese/radishes as it does in the original recipe and it was so good. I’ve also made it with pistachios and nectarines, with candied pecans and soy-spiced pecans, feta cheese and muenster cheese and been equally happy with the result.

For the salad:
A bunch of kale, washed, dried, and sliced into ribbons or bite-sized pieces.
A handful (give or take) of toasted pecans
A handful (give or take) of dried cherries
A few radishes, sliced thin
Some goat cheese, chilled and crumbled

For the dressing:
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 T. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. honey
1 T. dijon mustard
salt a pepper to taste

Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Toss to combine, then let sit for 20 or so minutes to allow the dressing to tenderize the kale.

RSBC Week 3: Squash That Chocolate Craving

I feel a little bit like I cheated on this week’s cooking challenge. It’s a silly thing, really, but I bought butternut squash that had already been peeled, seeded and chopped. Does that disqualify me? For some reason, I feel like the “honest” thing to do in the RSBC Challenge is took cook with the whole-est of whole ingredients. And this butternut squash was in pieces when I bought it. Forgive me, please.

As penance, I submit to you my offering for the week. Please do not confuse it with a health food, even if there is a shocking lack of butter. It is a cake. A butternut squash cake, rolled around a cushion of whipped chocolate ganache. It is both tasty and delicious. More so than I expected and I expect a lot from my baked goods.

In other news I, well, ran a lot this week. I didn’t think I’d be able to since Manchild was out of school and I’d have to wake up early to go running. But, as luck would have it, it’s much easier to get out of bed at 6:00am when there is a small person kicking you in the face and you’re not getting any sleep anyway. Credit goes to Little Miss for the fact that I ran every day this week and am currently — including this morning’s 19+ miler — sitting on 143 miles for the month. So, yeah. Ironman completed!

But there’s still next week’s cooking challenge! And the challenge ingredients are . . . honey and cherries. Two of my favorite things. I hope it’s a fun way to end this year’s RSBC challenge!

Now that the business is all out of the way, let’s get to the pleasure. Here’s the butternut squash roll cake recipe. Make it and love it.

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Butternut-Chocolate Roll Cake adapted from *sigh* The Food Network

For the cake:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup butternut squash puree (I steamed my butternut squash until tender and then put it in the blender)

powdered sugar

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

sprinkle of salt

splash of vanilla extract

 

Prep an 11×17 pan by buttering it, lining it with parchment paper, and then buttering the parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375.

Prep a clean kitchen towel by sprinkling it generously with powdered sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, mix the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and pale yellow — a couple of minutes. Add in the squash puree and beat until blended. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 12 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the powder dish towel, peal off the parchment paper, and roll the cakeup tightly, starting from the short end. Place the rolled up cake on a cooling rack to cool completely.

While that is cooling, make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is all melted and it is smooth. Stir in the salt and vanilla, then let cool completely — first to room temperature, then in the fridge.

To assemble the cake, use a hand-mixer to whip the ganache until light and fluffy. Unroll the cake and spread the ganache evenly over the entire cake. Then roll it back up. You *may* want to let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours after that. Or you may just want to slice off a piece and eat it, which was what we did. We didn’t regret it. Not even a little bit.

What Happens When You Try to Be a Good Mom

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I decided to be a good mom today, after nearly a week of being a lazy mom who takes 4 hours naps and let’s her 4-year-old play on the iPad while she sleeps.

But today, with temperatures in the 40s, I was ready to turn over a new leaf and to try, once again, to be a good mom. And this is how I was going to do it: I was going to take my children outside. It had been half a week since they’d seen the light of the sun, unfiltered through panes of glass and curtains. Four days since they’d left the apartment.

And boy did it show. Temper tantrums. Whininess. Selective hearing. Boy oh boy. Call it cabin fever. Call it snow rage. Call it mid-winter break blues. Whatever it is, we were all pretty cranky. Something clearly needed to change. We needed some fresh air.

So we got ourselves all ready. We were out of practice, so it took a little bit longer than normal. But we did it. We got out the door. And as we walked down the street, before we even made it to the corner . . . it started to rain. Still, we persevered and walked all the way to the playground — which was, of course, covered in snow. But the children humored me and clomped around in it before the rain started to really come down and we gave up and went home. 20140219-230543.jpg

It was lunch time by then, and Manchild had specially requested deviled eggs. And because I was going to be a good mom today, I made the extra effort. Squish and Little Miss got some leftover cauliflower mac to eat while I deviled the eggs because they weren’t interested in that sort of thing. Manchild devoured the eggs and I patted myself on the back for being such a good mom. Right up until I sat down on the couch and noticed all the cauliflower mac fingerprints all over the upholstery, which Little Miss had so lovingly placed there while I slaved over the eggs.

See if I ever try to do anything nice again.

I would have been pretty discouraged about my attempts at being a good mom and having it blow up in my face. But then this night at bedtime Manchild said the prayer and thanked Heavenly Father that he was able to play on the iPad and on the Wii U and watch some Shaun the Sheep today. And that’s when I thought, “Well, at least I’m doing something right . . . ”

Maybe it doesn’t take any special effort to be a good mom after all.

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