Inies and Outies

I love to read the Huffington Post and this article was on that I enjoyed because it validated many of my own quirks.  Of course I have known that I am introverted from the time I knew what an introvert was.  I was one of very few kids that I knew who actually enjoyed quiet reading time over recess.  Some might say that is because I was/am overweight and lazy, but I will go with the introversion theory.

As a parent I am finding that the differences between introverts and extroverts effects me more than ever before.  Cory is a pure extrovert, but luckily he is also independent and it rarely causes any conflict because I can always hang out at home with my blog and my books while he socializes with friends and neighbors.  

Leila is such an interesting kid.  She challenges me, she impresses me and she schools me from time to time.  If you have ever read any of those first chapter books for kids that focus on a little girl main character, such as: Ramona, Junie B. Jones, Clementine, then you have a taste of my Leila.  She is the character that authors love to write about, Leila loves to read about and teachers don’t know what to do with.  She is her Daddy’s girl, and a true extrovert.

The problem is, I can’t send my 7 year old daughter with an impulse control problem out on her own.  So now, I am learning to take care of my extrovert.  

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And really, I hate to brag, but my daughter has been the star of every little girls book series know to modern kids.  So she is a pretty big deal.

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We Are Not Runners

Its been a couple of years since health and fitness became important to me.  Out of my 32 years, that means that the first 30 were spent NOT focused on health or fitness.  This summer has had its ups and downs.  Tough Mudder made me feel like I was going to die, and after the pulled muscle that I brought home from Minnesota with me, I haven’t really been able to push things too hard, but yesterday was my first 5K of the summer.  I finished in my worst recorded 5K time, but I did score a really nice Nike dry fit shirt, a Backpocket pint glass filled with BEER and a Scratch cupcake.

This morning was the annual healthy kids event.  This was my first 5K run ever last year and I enjoyed running alongside my girls as well.  We started the morning with a 5K for Cory, in which he proved that he actually IS a runner.  With a time just under 27 minutes, he placed 3rd in his age group.

I try to do a good job of exposing my kids to lots of experiences, and to teach them to push themselves and to their best.  There are lots of kids who have grown up with athletic parents.  Kids that can beat me in a 5K.  My kids aren’t those kids, but today they both made me so proud of them, for being them.  Thea ran the 400 meters and I joined her about half way through and held her hand as we pushed through the last 100 meters.  You could tell she was struggling, but she did it!

Leila. My Leila can be such a stubborn little thing.  It is a blessing and a curse to me as I try to steer her through childhood.  Today as we discussed which races each of the girls should do, though Leila doesn’t really do any running, she decided right away that she would run the 1 mile.  I knew it would be hard for her, I think it is important to let her try.  We explained that it was 4 times around the track and she was certain she wanted to do it.  After the first lap Leila was in last place out of the 10 or so kids participating, but sticking with it.  Lap two as she neared the corner where Thea and I were waiting to cheer her on, I could tell she was fading.  With more than half the distance to go I decided she needed some extra encouragement and I hopped on the track next to her.  She wanted to walk and I told her that we could walk, but she needed to pick a point when we would start running again.  She stubbornly rejected all of my suggestions, “We can start running at that cone”  Leila would quickly respond, “No!”

On her own terms, she decided when to start running and as we started lap three, it was obvious to both of us that the volunteers had lost track of us and assumed we were on lap 4 with the faster kids in front of us.  Leila told me she couldn’t do it and wanted to stop, but as we came around the track after lap three and everyone cheered on our finish, my girl kept on going.  I can’t even put into words how proud I am of Leila.  At a time when she wanted to quit AND everyone around her thought she was done anyway, she kept going.  She finished the mile.  Last place, and proud of herself.

Unfortunately, the race staff thought that she had finished the shorter race that had started while we were finishing our last lap of the mile and gave her a medal.  Because I had left Leila to finish on her own while I ran along with Thea, I wasn’t there to correct the mistake in time.  When Leila showed us the medal we talked about what had happened and all agreed that we needed to give back the medal and let them know that some little girl that finished the 400 meter race in second place did not get the medal she deserved.  I am not gonna lie, there were some quiet tears from Leila, and I was secretly hoping that they would let her keep the medal, but she gave it back.

As we made our way back to the car you could tell that Leila was really struggling to keep it together.  I got down on my knee in front of my big girl and with tears in my own eyes I told her, “I have never been more proud of you then today Leila.”  And I meant it.  She showed such great persistence, commitment and most of all, character.  A weekend full of athletic ups and downs has reminded me that my 36 minute 5K may not make me feel like a winner, but raising kids that are set on doing their own personal best, and participating even when they may not have a competitive advantage or advanced skills does make me feel pretty awesome.

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Semi Tough Mudder

Some time last year Cory sent me an email during the work day to tell me that his co-workers had made this rediculous suggestion to him that they participate in a tough mudder race, and didn’t I agree that it looked totally crazy and not at all like something he should do?

I think he was suprised when I quickly responded, “Do it!”

I first joined a gym and decided to try to get not so fat and unhealthy in November of 2010. By mid 2012 I was still fighting that battle, but had developed a love of exercise and personal improvement.  Though Tough Mudder did look a little bit crazy to me, it also looked like an awesome way to challenge oneself physically.  I would have signed up too if I had any “work out friends.”

Its funny how things work out though, because as Cory managed to convince himself to go for it, he also convinced my brother, and our neighbor Dave, who  who in turn also convinced a couple of his church friends– a couple from the other side of North Liberty, to also sign up.

That’s right–a couple.  Once I saw another girl on the list, it seemed like maybe I wouldn’t be totally out of line to sign up myself…so I did it.  I signed up for the 10-12 miles of running, coupled with 20 or so physical obsticles ment to challenge both your athleticism and your mental grit.  Two things that are very much a work in progress for me.  In the meantime, I made a friend in Bridget, the other tough mudder mother – who has proved to be a good friend with a laid back attitude and some common interests.  Already this endeveaor has proved to be a positive thing for me, and I had still had months to go before the actual event.

Through Bridget I was invited to participate in the Market to Market Relay race, running from Jefferson Iowa to Des Moines in a relay team of myself and 6 other mom’s in our 30’s from Johnson County.  It was a day that I was very nervous about leading up to, but again proved to be an awesome experience, getting to know more women who enjoy running for exercise without feirce competiveness.  I ran my very best that day and I am looking forward to our next relay where the same team will run from Omaha to Lincoln in October.

As the race was fast approaching Cory and I realized that we needed to serious about training.  I had been running for quite some time but had really stopped losing weight, and as much as I liked my running, I wasn’t getting any faster…I needed to kick it up a notch, and Cory needed to get started.  At Christmas I had a chance to catch up with my cousin Brian who was looking great, and obviously feeling great too.  He had dropped a lot of weight and was loving a new, healthier lifestyle.  Brian told me about his Crossfit gym and the kinds of work he had put into his new found health and seeing his results certainly piqued my interest.  A quick internet search led me to the Pro-Fit Gym in Coralville.

I could go on and on about the gym, about crossfit and about all of the reasons I love them both, but this is already getting pretty windy and I haven’t even made it to the actual race yet, so know that if you ever want to know more, I am more then willing to brag about my awesome gym and all of the cool things I have been able to challenge myself with over the past few months.

Again, the Tough Mudder had brought me another blessing, the knowledge of the upcoming challenge pushed me to step outside of my big box gym and really work hard.

Race day was only a day away and I was making myself so sick with worry about what was to come…

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Sweet and Sour

Every summer goes by quickly, I guess that is just part of getting older.  When I was a child I remember feeling like the summer days with no school friends to play with would drag on forever, and then every school year seemed to last an eternity while I waited to make it to the next class up.

It is one of the cruel realities of this world that it takes so long for a person to realize that time should be savored and not wished away.  This summer feels like a new reality for my little family.  Leila and Thea are still little of course, but their brand of little no longer requires nap times, or even a reasonable bedtime on special occasions. We can take them to a wedding and let them cut loose until *we* are the ones that need to go home and get to bed.  We can take them on an all day boating adventure and watch them swim around independently while we get to enjoy the water at our own pace.

It is certainly a stage to be relished, and I am trying to do that, but part of me is having a hard time letting go of the times of chubby baby bodies in swim diapers, and boat naps taken on my lap…and I can’t think of a better reason to miss the fireworks then to need to have the baby in bed before dark.

Rants from Mommyland is a  blog that I really enjoy, and while I was away enjoying vacation with my big girls they published a post that both hit home to me, and made me really question how I feel about this phase…the sweetspot.

My first reaction was to say, “No, say it isn’t so! I can’t be there yet. ” Sure, some things are getting easier, some things are sweeter, but just like a high school homecoming queen claiming their years at BFE high school as the best years of her life, I wanted to spit with laughter at the idea that this was *the* spot to be in.  Maybe for you.  But I refuse to move on to the next step and leave behind all of the wonderfulness of babyhood that made that spot so sweet.

Last week I took my daughters into a store called Justice. A store that only sells items that include at least one of the following: sequins, fluorescents, rhinestones or animal prints.  In this store my girls demanded to pick out their own flair.  There really wasn’t anything sweet about that.

Raising my girls has been full of sweet and sour…sometimes nearly too much of either to handle.  Every bad day is outweighed by the days when they show me how beautiful and smart they are growing up to be.  It’s always a balance, no matter the age, stage or time of year.  As our summer is starting to come to a close, and my baby girl moves on to her last year of pre- school, and Leila heads off to second grade I am doing my best to savor the good, and use the bad to remind me of all of the savory moments I have to fall back on, like the memory of Leila maneuvering around the stumps of Truman lake in a kayak all by herself.  And of sweet Thea as she sits on the floor meticulously putting together a puzzle, taking it a part, putting it away and getting out a new one, one that is “really really realllllyyyy hard!”

God has blessed me, and the blessings keep coming.

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Every day

Every day I wake up way too early.  4:45 AM. I follow up the early wake up call with an intense hour long work out that leaves me aching all day long. Everyday I get a little bit closer to my health and fitness goals.  Lately, I follow up that intense morning routine with some binge eating and a poor attitude so don’t expect to see me in a bikini anytime soon. Or ever.

Also nearly everyday I think, “I should really get back into blogging.”  Earlier this week I was reading over some old blog posts and I really enjoyed them.  I hate that I am no longer building onto that body of my life’s work, the history of my family.

I don’t know if it is getting up before the sun, the kids tee ball and Cory’s golf in the evening or pure laziness on my part, but I just don’t have it in me today.  As I tell Leila every day when the first of the bad attitude begins and the consequences are looming, every moment is a new one, and we can turn it around.  I will work on turning this around, but for now, I am wondering if 6:45 is too early to send the girls to bed?

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Growth

I post about my workout accomplishments on Facebook, and I tend to tell anyone that will listen about my latest run. It may be annoying, but I am comfortable with that. On a recent weekend stroll through the mall I was telling my Dad once again about the miles I had put in that week and the weight I have dropped over the past year. He said to me, “Just think if you had started running when you were 14.”

I gave it a quick thought and replied, “there is no way I would have done this at 14.” There are a whole lot of reasons I could give for that. I didn’t want to sweat, I didn’t want to run around town with every jerk in a 5 year radius making fun of my fat butt as I jiggled through the streets. I didn’t even participate in P.E. because there was no way I was going to sweat enough to need to shower in a well lit room filled with 14 year old girls.

The biggest reason that I wouldn’t have run at 14…I wouldn’t have been immediately good at it. I have heard lots of people say that their 30’s are when the really came into their own. I didn’t know what that meant, and maybe I don’t now but I do know that my 30’s–all 2 years of them so far, have my years of the biggest personal growth of my life.

I have finally realized the sense of self satisfaction that comes with trying, failing, and trying again. A satisfaction that you never really understand if you skip the failure stage. It is one thing to do something that comes easily, and a totally different thing to do something that takes work to get it right.

Some days I am so frustrated by how often I have to stop and walk. On those days I focus on how many calories I have burnt. Somedays I have no time to put into the workout that I hoped to accomplish. On those days I focus on how fast I can get my miles in. And some days I am so angry about how slow I move. Those are the days that I marvel at how many miles I can manage put in, like my first 7 miler from last weekend. So what if I averaged a 12 minute mile. I MOVED FOR SEVEN MILES!

My mindset has moved me out of a lifelong commitment to never failing to a place where my feeling of greatest accomplishment comes from putting one foot in front of the other. From a time where risk of missed perfection was mitigated by sitting on the sideline, to finally understanding the rush that comes with doing something that I never thought possible.

I have a long ways to go before I meet my many goals–physical, emotional and professional, but learning to enjoy the growth that comes with trying…that is something that I wish I had done at 14.

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Motivation

Somedays I wake up in the morning and I look at myself in the mirror and I am amazed.  I am certainly no supermodel, but I have come quite a long way from my heftier days.  Right now, I wear a size that prior to the last couple of months had NEVER graced a closet of mine.  I went from fat little girl clothes to fat grown up clothes. Now, I couldn’t even shop in a plus sized store.  That is an accomplishment that I try not to take lightly.

But then, on the other days…the days that I wake up and think about how far I have to go.  How the scale hasn’t budged in weeks in spite of my frequent workouts.  How I can’t do a push up even after all of these months of pilates.  How I have yet to run a 5K without stopping to walk…and I just want to say screw it and eat a whole sleeve of thin mints.  Today is one of those days.

I joined a relay team for the market to market relay race in central Iowa.  Of the seven women on my team guess who has the biggest shirt size and the slowest 10K time. By 8 minutes :/ ? At least I earned the shortest total running distance…7.6 miles over the course of 2 legs of the 17 leg race.  

 

Pass the thin mints.

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Singapore

Singapore is one of those really interesting places that, if you didn’t have a job that sent you there, or a friend to go and visit, you would never have made the trek. In that way, I think that Iowa and Singapore are alike.  

When I first found out I was going to Singapore I was picturing naked light bulbs hanging from the ceilings and mosquito nets as the only protection from the buggy tropical air. Thankfully, I saw none of that on my trip.  Though my hotel room would get nice and cool from the air conditioning, it did always have a bit of moisture in the air.  My blankets at night felt extra heavy from the humidity soaked air, but it was clean, cool and comfortable, and I was happy.  

One of the biggest advantages to Singapore is that most people speak English, and if they don’t speak it, the signs are in English. Though I do have to admit making a poor choice on the MRT (Subway) that caused me to go in a circle around SIngapore and waste an hour of my precious day off, things were pretty simple for an Iowa girl like me to get used to.  Everything was clean, and even when I went running before the sun came up, I didn’t ever feel unsafe.  

Being as close to the equator as Singapore is, it gets light at 7:30 AM and dark at 7:30 PM, all year around.  I could have used some more sunlight, but it was also nice to enjoy the pool, or sit on the hotel roof and have a beer after the hot sun had gone down for the night. 

The biggest chance for adventure that i had during my 2 weeks was really in the food.  With the limited daylight and the constraints of public transportation, I didn’t get to see very much of the island itself, but I did get to try lots of different cuisine.  I had Malaysian food, Indonesian food, Indian and Chinese.  I really didn’t try many things that I didn’t like, but then I avoided all foods that had faces, aside from the chickens and ducks, whose faces may have peered at me from the counter, but did not appear on my plate.  I had lots of curry, rice and noodles.  

As a nod to my midwestern heritage though, probably my favorite food that I had in Singapore was the Cha siu bao.  Basically, BBQ pork in a sweet bun.  

One of the most valuable parts of the trip for me was just to see another perspective.  Living in Iowa and having lived my whole life here, it is easy to forget that there is a whole world filled with people who are different than me, have different outlooks, different perspectives and opinions from what I am exposed to here, not just in the Midwest, but in the whole USA.  

It amazes me how something that is such a focus in everyday life in Singapore and other parts of the world is brushed aside as here-say  and myth in the US.  Climate change and conservation were everywhere, and whenever the subject came up with our Asian hosts, the fact that America turns a blind eye to the phenomenon was exposed as a point of annoyance.  It was really eye opening to me how wasteful we are, and how much we take for granted.  

Since I have been home I have had a couple of reoccuring thoughts…first of all, how is it that I can send myself into a panic that relegates me to my bed over something as mundane as a trip to Des Moines, and yet I can manage to fly to the other side of the world and spend a week and a half with people I barely know and handle it just fine?  I am one crazy chick.

Secondly…I have caught the bug, and I am not referring to the raging case of the stomach flu that I came down with the week after I returned home.  I am talking about the travel bug.  It was so amazing to take that trip, and I would love to go back, or go somewhere totally new for that matter…I can actually handle it! And the world is full of so many amazing and unique places. I want to visit them all!  

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Redemption

When I was a sophomore in College I applied to a study abroad program.  The program was a six week writers workshop in Ireland.  I still have the acceptance letter in my stacks of stuff I can’t quite part with.  It was one of those rare moments where I felt like my potential and ability was being recognized–like maybe I had some! Not only that, I desperately wanted to go to Ireland.  

As is the case for a lot of college students, my bubble was burst on page two…the financial requirements.  Without and extra seven thousand dollars to cover travel, tuition and housing, I was left with the letter as my only Ireland souvenir.  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am still not quite over this twelve year old disappointment. 

As we approached the doorways from generic airport out into tropical Singapore, in was excited to finally get an opportunity to see the other side of the world.  It may not be Ireland, but the lush green palm trees and warm tropical air told me that I was in for something different then Iowa, and that was enough for me to feel some redemption. 

 

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Travel Woes

My experience with international travel began on my honeymoon to Jamaica in 2004.  We took a couple of fairly short flights, got on a bus in Montego Bay and road to the resort where we spent 95% of our international time sitting on a beach drinking Red Stripe.  No complaints about that trip!  When I was given a work project last summer that looked like it would result in a trip to Singapore for me and my project team I was a mix of excited and terrified.

One summer before we had kids Cory and I took off to go to a family reunion with my family in Missouri and about 2 hours into the trip I told him that i couldn’t handle being away from home.  We turned around and went back and I immediately felt better.

When my tickets were booked for Singapore I looked over the flight details…the hours I would spend in the air, over the ocean.  *gulp*  The time it would take to get to my destination.  The time it would take to get back home if my family were to need me.  The 14 hour time difference between home and my Asian destination, where I would be traveling with 5 co-workers, all men, all acquaintances that I had never spent more than an hour or so together with at a time.  This was a recipe for a panic attack.  But I survived to tell the story!

After a change in plans because of the crappy Iowa weather we drove to Chicago the night before we expected to leave from the Eastern Iowa Airport.  We got to our airport hotel at about 9:30 on Thursday night and on Friday morning we were off to Ohare.  We got settled into our seats in preparation for our 13 ish hour flight to Tokyo.  Then plane troubles.  Everyone off the plane.  It was a roller-coaster of are we going or are we not, as not 15 minutes after we were escorted off of the plane we were told to get back on!

As the attendants were making their announcements we see an attendant scurry up the aisle to the man making the announcements and then I hear in the background of the intercom, “a gentleman in the back says that he may be having a heart attack.”

The intercom went quiet for a moment before the announcements for any Doctor’s on board to identify themselves.  As disappointing as it was to still not be moving and to be pretty sure that we were going to miss our connection in Japan, I am thankful that this happened before we took off.  For his sake, and selfishly, for my sake–an extra landing and take off was not on my list of fun things to do.

When we finally got rolling, things went really well.  I was tired from the stress of travel and I was able to get some sleep on the plane.  And, as a bonus, international flights have free alcohol and lots of new movies to watch.  We had our own screens and controls so I was able to watch more non animated movies on my collective flights then I had in the last 5 years. Best of the bunch – I would have to say, Argo.

We landed in Japan and were met by several airline employees waiting to give us our fate.  No big surprise, the four (the other two in our party weren’t flying with us) of us were set to spend the night in Japan and head to Singapore in the morning. The good point: We got to sleep at a pretty regular hour and we were still nearly on Singapore time, as the difference between Tokyo and Singapore is only one hour.

The bad points: Another weird airport hotel.  This one smelled like an ashtray had real metal keys.  When was the last time you stayed in a hotel with actual keys?

The room itself was…odd.  There were three little twin beds and a sign by the phone advertising cash only massages available from 3 pm to 1 am.  In case you were wondering, I didn’t call.

The toilet, as was the case with every toilet I encountered in Japan, had a heated seat and a baday.  I didn’t have a great night in Tokyo.  I went to bed pretty quickly after we arrived. I went to my room and freaked out a little bit about the non English characters everywhere and the no English speakers on TV.  So much unfamiliarity surrounded me as a sat on my tiny bed and thought about how far I was from home.  Even the warm toilet seat couldn’t bring me any comfort.

The next morning I showered in the weird shower and headed down for breakfast.  The restaurant was super crowded and the four of us were wandering around looking for a place to sit when this couple waved me over and moved a table down.  John and I sat down and started in on our breakfast…then this lady comes by and points at piece of paper with Japanese writing on it and says, “reserved!” Oops.  She told us not to move and took her paper with her somewhere else.  I blame the people next to me, but it took no more than 1 hour in public in a foreign country for me to screw something up.

Next step…checking in at the airport.  The Asian women at the airport were all beautiful.  So put together with perfect hair and make up and beautiful smiles.  The men…stern and serious.  The most puzzling thing about Japan for me was the masks.  Lots of people in airports wear masks.  I couldn’t decide if I should be appreciative that they were keeping their Ebola to themselves, or offended that they assumed I was going to infect them with Americanitis. A quick Google search tells me it is because they are sick and don’t want to spread it.  Thoughtful once you know what’s up. Kinda anxiety inducing when left to your own imagination to explain…like it was for me until just now when I did a quick Google search.

The flight from Tokyo to Singapore was worse than childbirth. Hyperbole? You may think so, but if given the option–that exact flight including the last seat in the plane, constant turbulence, crappy diet pop and fish omelet’s served for lunch, or–7 hours of hard labor at the University of Iowa Hospital with my husband by my side and I take childbirth every time.  Every. Time.

I never could have imagined how excited I would have been to touch down in a foreign country as I was after that experience.  I strolled right through security with my chewing gum in my backpack, and my marathon travel spanning 3 days – at least i think it was 3 days…You have no idea how much that time difference screws with your mind on travel days–was officially over!

More on the trip itself later!

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